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Higher education unions vow January strike

Image: Sandra Matic, via Shutterstock

Industrial action seeks job creation and reopening of French universities closed by coronavirus pandemic

University teachers and researchers will strike across France on 26 January as part of a “month of struggle”, unions have announced.

Strikers will be demanding job creation as well as higher wages and improved working and study conditions. They also want universities, currently shuttered to contain the spread of coronavirus, to reopen.

An inter-union communiqué, issued by groups including education unions SNESUP-FSU and Sud Education, and research unions SNCS, Sud Research and SNTRS-CGT, said government policy will increase precariousness among staff and students.

They will be joined in the action by secondary school teachers.

Year-long battle

The planned industrial action follows a year-long battle by higher education unions to halt the government’s research reform bill, the LPPR, or multi-annual research planning bill. Despite numerous objections from academics, the LPPR passed into law on 26 December.

“[The LPPR] contains all the elements of destruction of the national statutes, of precariousness, of competition between establishments and personnel that we had denounced,” the unions said in their joint statement. “We will continue to fight their implementation nationally and locally.”

Chronic under-funding

The unions also referred to the funding increase for research that is expected to go along with the LPPR, saying it would not put an end to “chronic under-funding” of higher education and scientific teams. “It will not solve anything and may even aggravate an already very worrying situation,” the communiqué said.

French universities and other higher education institutions remain largely closed under government orders in an attempt to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Face-to-face teaching has been replaced with distance learning, while laboratories and libraries are open with restrictions.

Campaign group Open University said 114 universities and schools, and some 330 laboratories, had joined opposition to the government’s actions. On its Facebook page, the group described January as a “month of struggle”.

Further industrial action is expected on 4 February.