New teacher strike in France and calls for further action in March

Unions say today’s protest will attract similar numbers as last week when many schools were closed as a result

Teachers are striking for the second time in as many weeks. Photo for illustrative purposes only
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France’s main teaching unions are calling on teachers across the education system to join protests, including a major strike today (February 6), and for action to continue.

It comes after a strike last week resulted in hundreds of schools across the country being forced to close.

Unions have called for a wider ‘week of action’ to disrupt the sector, including further demonstrations, although no more strike days have been announced.

‘All initiatives are encouraged’

Demonstrations are being held today in several major cities. In Paris a march is scheduled to take place from the Sorbonne university to the Education Ministry’s headquarters.

Teachers have to announce their intention to strike 48 hours in advance and participation figures have not yet been given but a figure similar to last week is expected.

The Education Ministry said 17% of non-teaching staff were on strike last week alongside 20% of teachers nationally. Unions said up to 47% of secondary school teachers, and 40% overall, joined the action.

“It is necessary to maintain mobilisation… taking into account local realities,” said the main teachers union FSU-SNUipp.

Strike action should be complemented by “rallies… in the evening, or at carte scolaire [the geographic boundaries for each schooling area] meetings, departmental strikes... all initiatives are to be encouraged wherever possible,” it added.

The CGT (Confédération Générale du Travail, a major radical union) has also called for teachers “to make [the movement] a lasting one.”

How long could disruption last?

Unions have called on members to continue disruptive action throughout February, but this is likely to be hampered by the upcoming school holidays.

Children in all school zones are set to have two weeks off school, with the first group starting on February 10.

Read more: MAP: French school holidays 2023-24 by region

Unions have called for behind the scenes disruptions to continue during the holidays, but also to “to prepare a strong and lasting rebound… in March, for the public education service and its staff.”

It is likely that further strike action will take place after March 11 when the last pupils have returned from the winter break.

What are protests against?

There are a myriad of reasons cited by unions for the protests; like many other sectors striking, calls for better working conditions and pay rises in the face of inflation are among them.

However, teachers are also demanding that more funding be pumped into the education sector, which they claim is crumbling.

They also want more to be done to increase the number of teachers being hired, as there are not enough new workers to replace retiring ones.

Many teachers are angry at the appointment of new Education Minister Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, who has been mired in controversy since her appointment.

She has been routinely criticised for comments she made against the state-education system and is seen as being ‘out of touch’ with teachers in the public sector.

Read more: French education minister did not lie - ‘reality proved her wrong’

New Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, who was Education Minister before January’s government reshuffle, proposed a number of radical reforms in the sector when he held the post.

These included changes to the grouping system for pupils, a new curriculum for some years and the hiring of fewer primary school teachers.

Unions say the changes will increase the number of hours worked for teachers, and reduce the quality of teaching in the classroom.

The proposals will be assessed by the Conseil supérieur de l'Education (Education council) this Thursday.

In addition, lorry drivers are also on strike today in the east of France but their actions are not part of a wider movement in conjunction with other unions.

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