Eight days of strike summoned from this Wednesday on the concerted centers Basque Country religious are in check to 120,000 students of 215 schools, mostly religious, and their families. The classrooms will suffer again the consequences of a labor conflict that lead the educational employers and the union representation of the 9,000 teachers who continue with salaries frozen for 10 years. The Basque Government, which finances public funds for the concerted school, has kept out of this crisis, considering that the disagreement is exclusively labor-related.
The school stoppages between the 16th and the 25th of April are added to another four days without class last November, and another two during the previous course. "The situation is very serious, we understand the demands of the teachers, they have the right to strike, but the students are going to pay for this mess, they hold them hostage, when they are not at fault," says Miriam González, president of the Catholic Federation of Parents of Students of Bizkaia (Fecapp).
All the unions that represent the workers (the majority ELA, Steilas, CC OO, LAB and UGT) have been demanding from employers Kristau Eskola and Aice-Izei an improvement in their working conditions: moving forward the recovery of lost purchasing power, which is 12.6% since 2009, reduce the workload of teaching and administrative staff, in addition to equalize the salary differences that occur between the teaching staff that ESO teaches. They also demand an agreement to relocate the personnel affected by the foreseeable closing of classrooms due to the decrease in the birth rate, as well as to improve the conditions of "especially precarious groups", such as teachers of early childhood education and those specialized in educational support.
Union demands for teachers have not been met by the centers. In turn, employers hide behind economic difficulties due to the financing they have arranged with the Government. Mikel Ormazabal, CEO of Kristau Eskola, says that the concerted network of social initiative "has also suffered loss of purchasing power during these years because of cuts in education." Although it states that "this critical situation has been reached due to the lack of negotiating will of the unions". "We have accepted many of their approaches, but they remain in maximalist positions that, if accepted, would jeopardize the economic-financial viability of many centers," he assures this newspaper.
The teachers of the Basque agreement maintain the same salaries as in 2009. The teachers of nursery and primary education charge a base gross salary of 2,223 euros per month. In secondary school, teachers who teach the first cycle (first and second of ESO) receive 2,359 euros, while in second cycle, with the same degree and work, earn 2,584 euros per month. This amount is the same for the teachers of baccalaureate and FP. Salaries in the public network are somewhat higher in all cases: 2,424 euros per month until primary and 2,805 euros in secondary, baccalaureate and FP, always according to the data provided by the unions.
Faced with union demands, says Miren Zubizarreta, of ELA, the employers have responded with "an insufficient offer, far removed from the needs" of the teaching staff. "They leave us no other alternative but to continue with the mobilizations and strikes planned," he says. In the stoppages held in November they achieved a follow-up of 65%, according to the headcount of the plants, 32% in employer figures.
The schools religious, who represent about 30% of the Basque educational system, have not met the demands of teachers because "the waterline of the centers is attacked," says Ormazabal. The Basque Government allocated a total of 623.3 million euros in 2018 for the concerted network, which also includes the ikastolas, and allocated 1,193.5 million for the public network. The regional executive contributes this course 9,000 euros per student of the public network and 5,000 euros of the concerted.
The Department of Education ensures that the distribution of public resources is regulated by law and there is no room for maneuver to expand these figures. In this conflict has not taken a position because it would mean "an intrusion without justification," in the words of the Government spokesman, Josu Erkoreka, and has simply asked the parties in conflict to make "an effort to take the conflict out of the classroom", said the counselor of the branch, Cristina Uriarte. The Administration now opens, to an initiative of the Basque PP, to approve "an upward update" of the educational concerts that finance the concerted network.
The call for strike only affects a part of the concerted private network, since in the scope of the ikastolas, where the main power station is LAB – affinity to the left abertzale-, an agreement was already sealed last December with "similar conditions" to those now offered to religious centers. "The ball is on the roof of the unions, why is the agreement possible with LAB in the ikastolas and is not achieved in our centers with ELA?" Asks the representative of Kristau Eskola.
In the middle of this confrontation, the malaise grows between the associations of fathers and mothers. In some cases, they are considering as a "measure of pressure" to take their children to school during the strike days, in order to "move the problem from the houses to the schools", explains Sonia Aldabe, of the Corazonistas de Rentería school. (Gipuzkoa): "We, the families and the students, are not part of this conflict, if we take our children to school, we want to force teachers to teach, because they can not spend eight days at home watching television", Add. If they go ahead the eight days of unemployment, the students of baccalaureate would lose this course 14 scholastic days, almost 10% of the academic course (152 days).
The Labor Department of the Basque Government has decided this afternoon to increase notably the minimum services during the strike and requires the presence of teachers in the classrooms by educational stages and half of the usual staff in special education. If in previous calls decreed the need for two people to attend by school, one of management and another of administrative staff, this time it establishes that there is a teacher for early childhood education and another for primary education, and a teacher for all of ESO, bachelor and professional training. The measure has been described as "disproportionate and abusive", since it quadruples the minimum services established so far.