Within the union movement has always been, and still is, a willingness to cooperate across borders. On many occasions when nations were in conflict, unions maintained contact and jointly continued to working for better working conditions and understanding across borders. SULF believes that active international work and support for our sister organizations around the world is essential. Consequently SULF is a member of Education International, EI. EI organizes everything from preschool teacher unions to university teacher unions worldwide.
Last summer, Education International held its seventh World Congress. The theme of the next congress period reads “Building the Future through Quality Education”.
Several of the issues that are current internationally and are covered in the various motions and resolutions can be recognised from our Swedish horizon, for example, more secure employment positions. This is an issue that has been pushed hard by SULF for several years. It is vital to individuals and their ability to plan their futures. For example, mortgages may be difficult if you do not have a permanent position. Secure employment relationships are also important for academic freedom. If you may lose your job for doing research in areas that are not desirable according to employers or government, chances are that you stay away from those areas of research. Similarly, education will suffer if you risk losing your teaching job when you use research that is not deemed desirable by the regime. A resolution to combat the increasing number of fixed-term contracts was adopted.
Another issue discussed at the Congress was the right to education for all. Sharply-worded formulations were used against those who wish to prevent girls and women from access to education. We must jointly support and promote the universal right to a quality education.
The right to freely organize unions is perhaps self-evident to us. In several countries our union colleagues risk persecution and arrest, for example in Iran where the delegates to the Congress were arrested when they applied for a visa to enter Canada where this year’s Congress was held. One way for us in Sweden to help our university colleagues in countries where people cannot freely organise might be to require of our Swedish universities that they recognise and respect freedom of association and union work in collaboration with universities in these countries.
Moocs and their consequences were raised by representatives from some African countries. Arguments that can sometimes be heard from our universities, for example that it is good for developing countries to have access to high quality courses from universities in the industrialised world, were dismissed. Instead these African representatives claimed that Moocs pull the rug out from under domestic effort to develop higher quality education in the country.
Conferences of this kind are important for both knowledge and experience exchange and in order to show solidarity with other unions around the world.
Working together for better working conditions and high-quality education and research.
Lars-Åke Lööv, 2nd Deputy Chair of SULF
Leader in Universitetsläraren nr 5 2015