Nationwide teacher strike today; half of primary schools closed

Amsterdam primary school closed for a nationwide teacher strike, 15 March 2019
Amsterdam primary school closed for a nationwide teacher strike, 15 March 2019Photo: NL Times

Teachers of all levels of education are striking on Friday for more investment in education, because the quality is under pressure. More than half of primary schools are closed today. The teachers will gather on the Malieveld in The Hague to protest, reports.

“The need is high everywhere”, Dorien Konig, director of general education union AOb said to the newspaper. That is why not only primary school teachers are participating in a campaign week that started on Monday and ends with the strike on Friday, but also teachers from other education levels and lecturers in colleges and universities.

The campaign week is supported by AOb, FNV, PO in Actie, VO in Actie, and FVoV.

According to Konig, the government needs to invest 4 billion euros in education over the coming years in order to properly address the issues facing the sector. “We want to put this into, among other things, workload reduction, salary improvement for teachers, and teaching support staff.” According to AOb, the problem is the same throughout education - due to little money, wages are low, which makes it difficult to find new teachers, which in turn increases the workload on existing teachers. “These are problems you can’t ignore. The willingness to take action is increasing among teachers.”

That increase in willingness is partly thanks to protest actions by primary school teachers in 2017 and 2018, Konig believes. “I see it as a trajectory in which all those actions belong together.” While teachers have a great sense of duty towards their pupils and students, the idea that something needs to change soon is becoming increasingly widespread, she said.

Wages are particularly a problem in primary education, Brenda Benne-Saleh, spokesperson for PO in Actie and a primary school teacher, said to “In the banking sector you can say that you want to earn more, but in education that is not allowed because you are supposed to have a passion for your profession. Yet research shows that people, especially men, do indeed leave education because of the salary. Then you get a shortage and a high workload.”

Last week Minister Arie Slob for Primary and Secondary Education announced that primary schools will receive promised money to reduce their workload earlier than planned. This school year the average primary school will receive 35 thousand euros for this. That will increase to 50 thousand euros annually after the summer.

“This is not an extra investment, but a cash transfer”, Benne-Saleh pointed out to the newspaper. The money in question was already reserved for education and is now only partly brought forward. Another part is being postponed, which means that the sector has to wait longer for the same amount, she said. “The goals have not yet been achieved. At the moment, mainly small patches are being applied, while the large deficit is not being addressed.

Union CNV is not participating in the strike. “We support the action week, which started on Monday, but will not strike on Friday”, chairman Loek Scheuler said to “In terms of content, we stand for the same purpose, but we choose a different way.” CNV considers Friday’s action a “political strike” in the run-up to the Provincial States election next week. The union also believes that the differences between the various levels of education are too large for a single action, and that it is too early for a strike. “You strike when you’ve tried everything else. We want to start dialogues first.”