Teachers chalk up a protest

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Teachers angry about the employment settlement agreed to by unions last week took the chalk out of the classroom and into the schoolyard on Monday. Several hundred teachers wrote “nei” (no) in large letters outside schools, have vowed to reject the agreement when it goes to a vote this month, and threatened strike action when school resumes after the summer holidays.

Education Minister Torbjørn Roe Isaksen chats with teachers and children during a kindergarten visit in May. Many teachers are angry about the new wage settlement their own unions agreed to last week. On Monday hundreds chalked the work "nei" around school grounds, showing their dissent. Teachers have threatened to reject the agreement when it goes to a general vote later this month, and will likely delay any ensuing strike action until school starts again after the summer break. PHOTO: Kunnskapsdepartementet

Education Minister Torbjørn Roe Isaksen chats with teachers and children during a kindergarten visit in May. Many teachers are angry about the new wage settlement their own unions agreed to last week. On Monday hundreds chalked the word “nei” around school grounds, showing their dissent. Teachers have threatened to reject the agreement when it goes to a general vote later this month, and will likely delay any ensuing strike action until school starts again after the summer break. PHOTO: Kunnskapsdepartementet

The grassroots action was organized by teachers through a closed Facebook group, not by unions, reported Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “It is a lousy agreement that has come this year,” said teacher Marit Øvrebø, who works at St Svithun school in Stavanger. “It is delicious to mark the dissent, and so chalk writing is an innocent but nice method of action. It’s important to show opposition before the new working agreement goes to a referendum on June 18.”

Many teachers were angry with the controversial settlement reached between the Education Union (Utdanningsforbundet) and employers’ association KS last Monday. While there’s no impact on actual teaching hours or tasks to be performed within those hours, they argued changes requiring them to be at school 7.5 hours a day will make their schedules far less flexible.

Ingrid Lund who teaches at Drammen secondary school told newspaper Dagsavisen the agreement would lead to more time being eaten up with paperwork, applications and individual negotiations. “If we do not even get to maintain the current flexibility, it will mean that the teachers perform even more unpaid work in order to do a good job,” she said.

Teachers’ unions including Lektorlagen, LO Skolenes Landsforbund and Musikernes Fellesorganisasjon immediately rejected the agreement. Members of the unions that agreed to the settlement, Utdanningsforbundet and Unio, also rejected their own associations’ decisions and took to social media to voice their anger.

“In a referendum I will vote against this agreement,” Lund said. “All teachers, students and education subjects are different, and therefore it is so important to have flexible structures. I cannot understand that Unio has agreed to a proposal which means it is even more difficult to combine the teaching profession with family life, this will go hard against recruitment.”

Strikes loom
Teachers can take industrial action when the agreement deadline expires next week. If enough teachers vote against the agreement and KS is unwilling to renegotiate, there could be a large-scale teacher strike reported Dagsavisen. The action would most likely be delayed to the start of the autumn school term, after the summer holidays.

“We are in the process of carefully reading the agreement, but hope the teachers still get time to be teachers,” said the Buskerud education union representative, Thom Jambak. “Now we will talk with those who have held the negotiations and gauge the mood among the members. That the new outline involves even more bureaucracy and less flexibility, KS has not understood what the teaching profession entails.”

newsinenglish.no/Emily Woodgate