I was not sure if I would go to the big demo in Copenhagen. For one, Copenhagen is far away. For another, it is expensive to get to. But then, on the way to Aarhus yesterday morning, something snapped inside of me. I got angry.
This came as a completely surprise. I have been feeling shock and confusion for two weeks. This was supposed to last two to three days. Nine working days at worst. And here we are. No end in sight. I walked past the protestors near the railway station at 8am and I was furious. They were waving and smiling at cars. They should have been at work. They should have been doing what they actually trained for.
Now, without getting into the rights and wrongs of the actual negotiation, this action is completely unconscionable. I am furious.
There are layers of fury. I am like a furious onion. The top layer is fury for myself. I want to go to work. I effing love teaching, I do. I also love getting paid every month. I went into teaching because I know I cannot take the highs and lows of freelance. I went into teaching because I want to help people get better at my subjects. I did not go into teaching so I could march around in a yellow vest.
There is fury for schools. The independent schools are going to suffer for this. Maybe they don’t have to pay the union wages but not everyone in independent schools is in a union, they need paying. The parents could refuse to pay for this month. The state will refuse to pay for this month too. So, where’s the money for rent and heating and electricity and wages coming from?
Then I am outraged as a taxpayer. There is a social contract here and it is being broken. I pay taxes so that they can send the kids to school. Instead, they are with grandma and hanging around shopping centres. The government is pocketing the millions meant for our salaries and spending it on.. what? Our union support payments are taxed as if they were an income *and* we have to pay them back. So, the government gets to keep half our “wages” when we don’t even. The government gets to skip out on paying a month’s salary with no accountability but still gets the same in taxes from us. You see this in dodgy dictatorships, not Scandy socialist paradises.
I am also angry because of the lack of fair play. The model of negotiations is that if both parties cannot reach a compromise, then a lockout hurts both parties until negotiations re-start. The KL is not being hurt by this. They are about the only party to this mess that is not being injured by the lockout. I am furious that they were able to threaten a lockout on day one, I am angry they had nothing in the way of compromise, it is outrageous that the politicians claim THIS is the Danish Model and refuse to consider re-starting negotiations.
The incompetence is also horrifying. Apparently, every time the teacher union man, Bondo, says “Oh for heaven’s sake, just do a political intervention already, stop the lockout out!” it pushes the political intervention back two days, so the precious Danish Model is not called into question. The politicians did not expect this much popular support, they thought people would turn against ‘lazy, spoiled teachers’ in much greater numbers. The politicians thought they could starve the unions out in two weeks, they have money for a month. The politicians thought they could run things like this and no one would notice the loss of a system that Danish people value. The politicians are possibly going to wait until after May Day (a celebration of the labour movement), before they do an intervention because they do not want to look like hypocrites as they praise the Danish Model.
I am angry that there is now no political movement in Denmark that supports me. There are the blue who hate me because I am unashamedly foreign and the red who mistreat me because they don’t think they can afford me. I expect the blue team will win next election and where does that leave people like me?
But most of my outrage is for the students. They deserve better than this. Some countries have longer holidays but the trade off is longer school days or there are activity camps. Having an indefinite time off of school means you cannot use the time for good. I don’t know how many of my readers have taught children with special needs or unsupportive families? After the summer holidays, you have to teach them things you already taught them. You need to make sure they can still read. You need to lay the ground rules again. It takes about a month to get up and going again. Those students will be especially ill-served by this government. And then there are disabled children who really need routine and certainty. Facing them with “I don’t know when school will start again,” is cruelty. And then there are students in their final year who have been preparing for exams. The government solution is “Well, we’ll just give you your average grade.” Why not do that every year then, if the exams are not important?
All the students of Denmark are being held hostage by incompetent politicians. All they needed to do was come up with suggestions the unions were likely to take, after some negotiation. They did not need to plan this whole “starve ’em out!” plot. Or they could have suspended the Danish Model and used “There’s a financial crisis on!” Or they could have let the discussions deadlock for months and months, until the people got pissed off with the teachers, and then made a political intervention. It is outrageous that they locked out the students and teachers as the first resort.
This action is completely unacceptable in a modern democracy and exposes Denmark’s rotten political workings for all to see.