January traditionally marks the start of second period of classes for most primary and secondary school students, however, this year it was also the return to national protests and demonstrations.

On the day that thousands of students were supposed to return to classes after Christmas, teachers had strikes called by three union structures.

The All Teachers Union (Stop) resumed the indefinite strike that began in December, the National Federation of Teachers (Fenprof) revived the strikes due to overwork and overtime, and the Independent Union of Teachers and Educators (SIPE) opted for a strike partial to the first period of classes for each teacher.

Throughout the year, unions delivered more than half a thousand strike notices against various measures, from the review of the recruitment regime to vacancies for access to the 5th and 7th levels or working conditions.

The frozen service time during “Troika”, six years, six months and 23 days, mobilised the most protests.

Historic demonstration

In January alone Stop called two national demonstrations in Lisbon, which were attended by “more than one hundred thousand people”, in accordance with the estimates by André Pestana, national coordinator of the youngest union in the education sector.

Two weeks after the “historic demonstration” on the 14th, André Pestana pointed to “the sea of people” who joined the march between the Ministry of Education and the Palace of Belém.

The following month the mobilisation of historic trade union organisations, such as Fenprof or the National Education Federation (FNE) was confirmed.

On February 11, “the biggest demonstration ever” took place, show the estimates by the secretary general of Fenprof, Mário Nogueira, who spoke of “more than 150 thousand people” in Lisbon.

With these numbers the demonstration manged to surpass the 2008 demonstrations against the Minister of Education at the time, Maria Lurdes Rodrigues, in which around 120 thousands teachers were present.

In addition to Fenprof and FNE, the protest was also called by six other union structures (ASPL, Pró-Ordem, SEPLEU, SINAPE, SINDEP, SIPE and SPLIU), which remained united throughout the year.

One of the union’s initiatives was a strike across districts between mid-January and early February.

The awareness of the instability created and faced with the uncertainty of the strikes, with no end in sight, the guardianship requested that minimum services be decreed, which ended up being fixed by the arbitration court.

The strike called by Stop came to an end in mid-April, more than four months after the first day of protest, without a response to the main demands.

School directors and Minister João Costa ensured that the majority of strike notices were not widely followed.

Unable to recover the frozen service time, teachers started the academic year with more protests.

It was only after the fall of the Government, the Minister of Education admitted the possibility of teachers seeing this time had expired, said PS candidate, Pedro Santos, the next Prime Minister.