Teachers’ unions in France called Monday for a second major strike this week to protest the government’s Covid testing and isolation protocols. They claim these activities disrupt classes severely.
45% of the country’s primary schools closed last week as a result of a one-day walkout, according to unions, who claim the authorities have failed to establish clear rules that would keep as many students in school as possible. Many parents have a difficult time getting vaccination appointments for their children, and long lines form outside pharmacies due to the widespread spread of the highly contagious Omicron coronavirus variant. According to teachers, class disruptions have become unmanageable with the spread of the virus, with many parents struggling to get vaccination appointments for their children.
To counteract the threat, the government pledged to provide five million high-quality FFP2 facemasks to school staff and hire over 3,000 replacement teachers to replace those forced to isolate after coming into contact with an infected person or contracting Covid.
However, unions said Thursday’s strike was just a harbinger of a “massive” walkout on January 27.
A coalition of four unions and the FCPE, France’s biggest parent’s federation, said in a statement that the handling of the health crisis requires strong measures beyond what the prime minister and education minister have committed to.
As Covid cases spread quickly throughout schools, they want the government to hire enough substitutes to replace all teachers absent. Children who are infected with the virus must stay home for up to ten days, while their classmates must take three tests within four days.
Additionally, French teachers would like more personal protection equipment “well beyond what is promised,” and more investments in the French education system, where the average teacher salary trails other European nations.
The request for a new strike call was not backed by other main union groups, including the largest among primary school teachers, the Snuipp-FSU.