Teacher dispute over reform measures continues
(CS/mig) The conciliation between Education Minister Claude Meisch and Luxembourg's teachers' unions on a savings package has failed, but the dispute between the parties continues.
The argument between the minister and teachers began in late 2014, when a number of savings measures affecting teachers were announced. A first round of talks in December broke down and the matter was brought before an arbitrator.
After several months of negotiation, however, this weeks saw the conciliation process declared as failed by the minister.
While an agreement was officially reached last week, unions Féduse, Apess and SEW proceeded to slam the deal in the following days, recommending teachers not to vote for the document.
The agreement foresaw, for example, a restructuring of supervision tasks to free up more teaching hours. With a goal of 1,500 additional hours, it was hoped to reduce the fail rate at schools by targeted support.
Additionally, a cut in teaching hours for teachers aged 45 was to be scrapped and instead transformed into a different task, such as tutoring, mentoring for teacher trainees or school projects.
Teachers aged 45 or over have the right to one free hour per week. A second hour is added for teachers aged 50 or over. Teachers over the age of 55 benefit from four free hours a week. Under the government proposal only teachers aged 60 or over would not have had to fill these hours with other school duties.
Finally, changes were to be made to the correction of exam papers to shorten the exam period, allowing teachers and students to remain in session for longer.
Initial plans to cut teacher salaries during exam time, when there is no regular teaching, to hours actually worked rather than the normal monthly wage were scrapped. These had kicked off the dispute.
Meisch expressed his disappointment at the behaviour of unions, saying they had committed to promoting the agreement among their members during the final session. He declared the conciliation process as failed, saying: “There will be no further negotiations,” adding: “I do not know with whom I should negotiate about what.”
Unions meanwhile have said that the conciliator's final report had been in favour of the ministry, allegations refuted by the office. Additionally, they said that proposals put forward to cut costs by more than the 3.5 million euros foreseen by the ministry had not been taken into account.
Union plans mainly foresee cuts to administrative spending. They want to keep the age-related cut to teaching hours fully in place. Minister Meisch's unwillingness to do so proved that he was not willing to negotiate but interested in implementing his plans, union representatives argued.
Claude Meisch in the meantime has said that he will proceed to implement a set of reforms, based on the agreement negotiated with the conciliator.
The Education Minister said that he will seek to directly talk to teachers. Social dialogue, he explained, does not work when unions tell their members one thing and the government something else. The behaviour by unions, he argued, showed that all their efforts were geared towards strike action.