Strike at school on January 20: a very popular movement? Unions angry with Blanquer

Blanquer in Ibiza the straw that makes the situation untenable

BLANK. The strike of this Thursday, January 20 will be much more political than last week: in question, the “casualness” of the Minister of National Education pointed out by several unions.

[Mis à jour le 18 janvier 2021 à 15h11] A strike and calls for resignation. While the teaching staff is demanding more resources and expressing its dismay at the difficulties of applying the health protocol at school, the revelations about Jean-Michel Blanquer’s holidays go badly. Mediapart made public yesterday the conditions under which announcements were made on changes to the health protocol in public establishments, the day before the start of the school year, on January 2. To do this, Jean-Michel Blanquer chose to give an interview to the Parisian. From a distance. From Ibiza, in Spain, not far from the beach, as Mediapart revealed on Monday January 17 in the evening. If the teachers will not question the right of the Minister of Education to take leave, the symbol could prove disastrous for Jean-Michel Blanquer and the executive: it seems to indicate that the minister has responded with nonchalance, since a holiday villa, to the concern of the teachers, asked not to drink coffee in the common room and to manage the restrictive measures of the protocol.

Jean-Michel Blanquer weakened

After the massive mobilization of education staff and teachers on January 13, the new call for a strike is now taking a new turn. Several unions, including the Snes-FSU (majority in the second degree), the CGT, FO, Sud-Solidaires, the FCPE, high school student unions, as well as several primary school teachers have already called for the movement to be renewed on January 20. They are asking for more precise measures and the establishment of an emergency plan to help them deal with the spread of Covid-19 in schools. There is no doubt that in the demonstrations, signs will be raised to ask the Minister of National Education to leave office. The SNES-FSU has already targeted the “lightness” and the “casualness” and the “contempt for the entire educational community” shown by Jean-Michel Blanquer.

The co-secretary general and spokesperson for the SNUipp-FSU, Guislaine David, abounded this Tuesday morning on France Info: “Imagine that the principals and headmistresses of schools and teachers were in anguish and difficulty on Sunday to apply a protocol the next day, which they learned from the press. There is really a gap here between what Ibiza represents and what colleagues were experiencing on a daily basis on the eve of the start of the new school year. Knowing it like that, it will necessarily dig even more the gap that already existed between the minister and his staff”.

The Minister of National Education, who was already criticized within the executive for his difficulty in communicating with the teaching community, finds himself even more weakened, three months before the presidential election. Contacted by Le Monde, the minister’s office gave justifications for his trip to the Balearic Islands, from December 28 to January 2. “The interview with Le Parisien was done by videoconference on Saturday, then updated on Sunday before publication. This did not change the release time of the protocol,” said a contributor to the newspaper. If he had been there [à Paris], he wouldn’t have done anything different. It is not the Minister who shuttles between the Ministry of Health and us, but the Secretary General, it has been like that for two years”.

January 20 strike: what to expect?

On France Info, Sophie Vénétitay, secretary general of the SNES-FSU, launched this Sunday, January 16 that “locally, there could be strikes in certain academies or certain departments, but also rallies”. And to detail: “The goal is to make visible the fact that there are still many questions to be dealt with […] On the baccalaureate, Jean-Michel Blanquer told us that discussions were going to open concerning the specialty tests scheduled for March: given the urgency and the calendar, decisions must be taken very quickly […] We also have questions about CO2 sensors: the Prime Minister and that of Education remained very evasive Thursday evening.

We should therefore expect more local actions this week, but the mobilization could be followed. Jean-Michel Blanquer’s announcements of January 13 were not enough to satisfy parents of students, teachers and education staff. Details will be provided quickly on the extent of the strike and the mobilization of National Education staff. “The account is still not there. We continue the mobilization and the parents are the first to ask to continue the mobilization. Because today, the situation in the schools is untenable. It is difficult for the students, it is difficult for parents, it is difficult for National Education staff. And despite the few recruitments announced by the minister, we do not have, for example, the timetable for implementing these recruitments. There are a lot of things that are still missing. And we can’t continue like this. So we have to mobilize in order to have all the means claimed for almost two years now, so that public schools can function well, “insisted on France Info Carla Dugault, co-president of the FCPE, January 17.

Blanquer’s previous announcements, insufficient for the unions

The extent of the mobilization during the January 13 strike forced the government to provide a first rapid response. Matignon had invited education union representatives to a meeting during the day in the presence of Jean-Michel Blanquer, Minister of National Education, and Olivier Véran, Minister of Health. The unions expected a lot from this meeting, in particular “a real negotiation for quick and concrete answers on the health aspect” declared Clément Poullet, secretary general of the FO federation for education. If the Minister of National Education announced, at the end of this meeting, new reinforcement measures to help teachers in their task, no change concerning the health protocol has been recorded. At the end of the interview, Jean-Michel Blanquer took the floor to announce new reinforcement measures:

  • 8,000 additional staff have been added since January 17 in schools. Among them, there are 3,300 contract teachers who will see their contract extended until the end of the school year. To meet the demand for teachers, the Minister provides for recourse to “additional lists, of people present on the lists of competitions” and which can be mobilized in primary education. In addition, 1,500 educational assistants and 1,500 administrative contractors come to support supervisors and school heads in enforcing the health protocol. Also, the minister mentioned the recruitment of 1,700 “anti-coronavirus mediators”, “people who come to schools whenever there is work to do, for example when saliva tests are done in numbers” .
  • 5 million FFP2 masks are distributed in the school system, in particular for kindergarten teachers who teach children who do not wear masks.
  • The postponement of the baccalaureate specialty teaching tests, normally scheduled for March, will be studied. Jean-Michel Blanquer mentioned a postponement for June but the decision must be taken in concert with the “representative organizations” and the “council of high school life”.
  • Mid-year assessments for CP students are postponed “to a deadline which remains to be defined with the unions”.

Why are teachers on strike?

At the origin of this first mobilization of National Education staff: the successive changes to the health protocol in the school environment, the “indescribable mess” caused by the latest measures and the “fed up” of teachers and parents. of students. The very active circulation of the epidemic and the multiplication of cases of contamination and contact cases prompted the government to establish a braking strategy articulated around tests. In the event of detection of a case of Covid in a class, all students had to carry out 3 self-tests over 5 days. Despite the relaxations made to the health protocol at school (no PCR test, no renewal of the process within 7 days in particular), the unions considered that the government was basing the effort to counter the epidemic in an untenable way on the children and teachers.

The same story resounded in the CGT: “Despite an unprecedented amplification of the epidemic, the School does not benefit from the protective organization that would be necessary to ensure the safety of students, staff and their families. pedagogical arrangements make learning conditions difficult. Shortage of replacements, management of tests and student absences greatly degrade working conditions”.