Unparalleled: the entire field of education goes on strike

RUG president Jouke de Vries: ‘Good that you’re campaigning’
The week-long national education campaign kicked off on Monday with a noisy protest and a speech by Jouke de Vries. ‘Education is getting a rough deal.’
By Thereza Langeler / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

Two men distribute flyers while harsh winds tug at their clothes and the sky above them threatens rain. They wear bright red hats and vests festooned with the logo of labour union FNV. In spite of the weather, they greet passers-by with a smile: ‘Will you join us in our strike for better education on Friday?’

Educators from all levels, from elementary to vocational and university, will be campaigning this week with the support of labour unions FNV and AOb. The unions want The Hague to invest more money (four billion euro) to solve education issues such as work stress and teacher shortages. The kick-off took place in Groningen on Monday.


Of the dozens of people in attendance, the majority are clad in FNV red or AOb green. ‘This is mainly an event for the more active volunteers’, says Maarten Goldberg, who represents the FNV in the RUG’s employee organisation. ‘And a lot of people are simply still at work. This isn’t the real strike yet.’

The real strike will be on Friday, at the Malieveld in The Hague. Jaap Bosch, one of the people distributing flyers, is technical adviser for the Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences. He can’t attend on Friday. But on Monday afternoon, he tries to recruit as many people as possible. It could be going better. ‘It’s too cold’, he remarks. ‘All people want is to get inside as quickly as they can.’

‘Good that you’re campaigning’

The activists wouldn’t mind being inside, themselves – it’s raining now, and the bright red FNV tent is in danger of blowing away – but they won’t leave until the protest. Carilloneur Auke de Boer play Io Vivat on the bells, as well as Yesterday and The wheels on the bus go round and round; at 11:55, the people in the union bus sound the horn repeatedly.

A little later, RUG president Jouke de Vries praises the union members and students that have gathered in the Senate room. ‘It’s good that you’re campaigning’, he says. He supports the call for more funding: ‘Of course we’re also concerned with how the money is distributed, but education is getting kind of a rough deal.’

Board is sympathetic

The board of directors has given RUG staff permission to go on strike. They can leave for the day without losing any pay. The board also wrote a letter indicating they are sympathetic to the campaign. In fact, De Vries emphasises, they board is sympathetic to everyone in education. ‘The issues affect all layers, starting in elementary schools and creeping up the chain. We have to stick together.’

De Vries would like to attend the strike on Friday but his busy schedule doesn’t allow it. But his speech, in which he wishes the protesters well on behalf of the entire RUG board, is met with grateful applause.


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