The strikes and demonstrations summoned by the main unions of teachers in Portugal have complicated the return to classrooms after the Christmas break. Some protests that have intensified this Tuesday, the day the deadline for the Government to respond to the demands of the National Federation of Teachers (Fenprof), which include the withdrawal of new recruitment criteria and the increase in wages. Hundreds of teachers anticipate camping in front of the Ministry of Education in Lisbonwhile this coming Saturday a big rally in the center of the capital.

    The unions have initiated the mobilizations after confirming the Portuguese Government its intention to give greater autonomy to the municipalities and the directors of the centers for hire staff. The teachers’ representatives consider that this new criterion will give rise to favoritism and exchange of favors and they defend the current selection system, based on the years of service and the qualifications of each teacher for their performance throughout the course. “The new criteria give rise to a great subjectivity and partisan influences, while the current model is completely transparent,” the national coordinator of the STOP union, argues to EL PERIÓDICO, Andre Pestana.

    limit situation

    High adherence to strikes, close to 80% according to the unions themselves, it is a sample of the extreme situation that teachers are experiencing in the country, Pestana assures. “The new hiring criteria have been the straw that broke the camel’s back, but we already had other issues that came from before. We want a salary update that compensates for inflation, a democratic management of the schools and the right to the same conditions of retirement and of sick leave than the rest of public officials”. Some demands are shared by non-teaching staff, who have also joined the protests.

    The stoppages have affected the restart of classes in all courses, with dozens of schools forced to temporarily close. Something that has aroused the concern of families, some of whom have had to take time off work to stay with their children at home. “The consequences for families can be devastating”has alerted this week the president of the National Confederation of Parents Associations (Confap), Mariana Carvalho, on the ‘Observador’ station. The unions ask parents to join the protests to force the Government to respond as soon as possible to their demands.

    advance meetings

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    Faced with the increase in mobilizations, the Portuguese government has decided advance the meetings with the teachers’ representatives, initially scheduled for the end of the month. In a brief statement, the Ministry of Education has confirmed that it will start a new round of negotiations between 18 and 20 January to discuss the new hiring criteria, without clarifying when the rest of the demands raised by the unions will be dealt with. The Executive maintains that his proposal will not alter the model of current hiring and qualifies as “campaign of lies” teachers’ accusations.

    In an appearance in Parliament last week, the Minister of Education, joao costastressed that the objective of the Government is to end the “instability and precariousness” and highlighted that the vast majority of teachers have progressed in their professional careers since 2018. “We have reversed the logic of reducing the number of teachers in schools, we have strengthened the teaching teams and we are starting a work of debureaucratization”. The minister’s words, however, do not convince the unions for now, which plan to maintain the strikes until mid-February.