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EDUCATION

Paris teachers strike over increase to school week

Primary schools were closed across Paris on Tuesday as teachers staged a mass walk-out in protest over plans to extend the school week from four full days to four and a half.

Paris teachers strike over increase to school week
A notice on the door of a primary school in the 19th arrondisement of Paris tells parents that all staff are on strike. Photo: The Local

Education minister Vincent Peillon has angered the teaching profession in France by proposing to extend the school timetable by half a day each week from September 2013.

Teachers are concerned the extra half day will simply add to their already overburdened workload without the necessary financial compensation.

There are also doubts enough staff can be recruited to cover the extra hours in the timetable and it will be all be financed.

Unions estimate the strike in the French capital will gain “historic” levels of support among staff. They claim up to 95 percent of teachers will join the walk out.

The striking teachers have also planned a protest march for 2pm on Tuesday starting at metro Temple before heading to the Hotel de Ville.

Out of a total of 624 schools in the capital only 66 remained open but were operating a ‘minimum’ timetable.

“The teachers who helped bring this government to power by mobilizing their vote are disappointed,” Jérôme Lambert, head of the Paris branch of the union SNUipp-FSU, told France’s TF1 television.

Valerie Marty, president of the Federation of Parents added: “Both teachers and parents are unhappy at how this reform is being carried out.”

Currently in France primary schools are closed on Wednesdays but the socialist government wants children to start attending classes on Wednesday morning in the future for 'extra-curricular activities'. In return the length of the full teaching day will be slightly shortened.

“We need to inform the French people that one week of 4.5 days is better for learning than 4 days of more than five hours of classes,” the education minister said. “It will allow children to undertake more sporting and cultural activities.

“We cannot continue to be the only country in the world where our students attend school only 144 days a year,” Peillon added in French daily Le Parisien.

In contrast to France, children in Germany attend school 193 days each year – the most out of all the member states of the OECD (The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). The average number of school days for nations in the OECD stands at 187.

Details of the extension to the school week are due to be finalized this week before being made public on Friday.

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STRIKES

French customs officers strike over job cuts

Customs officers across France will walk out on Thursday in protest at job cuts that unions say will “weaken the customs network”.

French customs officers strike over job cuts

The national strike on Thursday, March 10th is expected to lead to delays at ports, airports and on the Eurostar.

The strike, which will include a rally outside the National Assembly building in Paris, was called by the CFDT-Douane and has the support of other unions. 

A work-to-rule protest over pay and conditions by customs officers in 2019, under the shadow of Brexit, led to delays and disruption at airports, as well as ports including Calais and Dunkirk, and on Eurostar trains.

Unions are calling on the government to axe plans to switch responsibility for import duty collection to the Direction Générale des Finances Publiques by 2024, at the cost of 700 customs’ officer jobs – and, according to strikers, tens of billions of euros to State coffers.

“We are asking for the reforms to be stopped, mainly that of the transfer of taxation, which is disorganising the network with the elimination of nearly a thousand jobs,” CFDT-Douane’s secretary general David-Olivier Caron said.

The planned job cuts come after years of restructuring and streamlining that has seen thousands of positions disappear, the unions say, when customs fraud and smuggling is rising because of a lack of resources.

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