Teachers’ unions across France had asked their members to strike on Thursday, in protest at the government’s handling of the Covid pandemic in schools, but it seems that most teachers remained at work.
It comes exactly one week after nationwide strikes that saw 75 percent of primary school teachers absent from their posts according to unions – or 38 percent according the the Education Ministry.
The French Education Ministry has said that only 1.15 percent of primary school teachers and 2.18 percent of secondary school teachers have joined Thursday’s strike. Most schools across the country have remained open.
A spokesperson for SNUipp-FSU, the largest primary school teaching union who led last week’s strikes, told The Local that they didn’t know how many people had answered the call to strike.
“The idea today is to maintain pressure with localised protests, before a new call to strike on January 27th,” said Guislaine David, the organisation’s general secretary, in an interview with AFP.
Teachers are frustrated at the government’s repeated changes to Covid protocol in schools and lack of communication.
Their anger grew further this week when it emerged that the French Education Minister, Jean-Michel Blanquer, had instigated a significant overhaul of Covid rules on the last day of the Christmas holidays, while on vacation in Ibiza.
An eye-catching demonstration on Wednesday evening outside the Education Ministry saw protestors parody the situation, dancing in bikinis to balearic house music as a man dressed in a suit (pretending to be Blanquer) shuffles awkwardly.
PARIS – Action en cours devant le Ministère de l’Éducation Nationale.
— Clément Lanot (@ClementLanot) January 19, 2022
The unions want the government to provide extra face masks for staff, including the more protective FFP2 masks, pay rises and CO2 monitors to check if classrooms are sufficiently ventilated. Some are calling for a return to the rule whereby classes are closed after a pupil tests positive. Others are calling for Blanquer to resign.
Last week teaching unions won a number of concessions.
Even before the week’s strike took place, Prime Minister Jean Castex announced a simplification of health measures, meaning that three negative self-tests are all that is required for a child to return to school after becoming a contact case.
After the strike, the government announced that schools will receive 5 million FFP2 masks and that it would recruit thousands of substitute teachers to help deal with the pandemic.
Further strikes are planned for January 27th.