Coronavirus in schools - information in english
Here is a summary of the latest development concerning the coronavirus and schools.
Lärarförbundet’s work during the pandemic
Here you will find information regarding our efforts related to Covid-19 and what we have accomplished so far as a union. Our focus is to protect and support our members and influence the relevant decision makers.
Local work through our safety representatives
Lärarförbundet is present across the whole country, through our local branches and safety representatives who collaborate throughout the year to secure a safe work environment in the workplaces. At national level we support the safety representatives through training, legal advice and counselling. During the pandemic, this work has escalated considerably, partly to ensure that employers take the necessary measures to make the recommendations from the authorities possible to implement. The increased workload that the pandemic has led to, as well as the fear of being infected, are also work environment issues that the safety representatives have addressed continuously.
Changes and suspension of work
Our health and safety officers have suspended work in of several workplaces due to Covid-19 risks and pressed through a series of changes in different parts of the country. You can read more about their work here (in Swedish): https://www.lararforbundet.se/artikelsidor/lararfo...
Face masks and protective equipmentSeveral municipalities have prohibited the use of protective equipment among teachers such as face masks. Lärarförbundet has acted promptly and strongly against these prohibitions and several of our local branches have succeeded in reversing the decisions e.g. in Gothenburg.
Regular meetings with politicians and public authorities
Influencing decision makers is another important task. Lärarförbundet regularly meets with government representatives and members of parliament as well as with representatives from the Public Health Authority and the National Agency for Education. Our basis for each meeting is that…
...our members should be able to go to work without fear of being infected.
…sufficient safety measures are taken at each work place.
…the expectations posed on each level of the school system need to be reasonable and matched by sufficient resources.
We are also pushing hard for teachers to be prioritized in the vaccination process.
Reports and articles that influence
All through the pandemic, Lärarförbundet has made surveys and issued reports which show the tough work situations in which our members find themselves. It has been necessary to collect our own data in order to build understanding and create change, since the view of employers and many local as well as national politicians differs from what our members experience in their workplaces daily. The reports have also contributed to raising the issue of schools and the pandemic, on the political agenda.
In order to inform and influence both politicians and the general public, we bring our demands into the debate through news paper articles and other media platforms.
Some results from our advocacy
Compensation for groups at risk and family quarantine
We’ve managed to secure monetary compensation for risk groups who cannot work during the pandemic. We have also negotiated a change concerning the family quarantine regulation, which now includes that if a family member is ill with covid-19, children in early childhood education and pupils in primary education must stay at home.
Covid-19 shall be considered an occupational injury
We have succeeded regarding Covid-19 being included on the list of illnesses that may be classified as a workplace injury. We are also working to have our members included when applying the compensation regulations related to infections in the TFA (collectively agreed insurance for workplace injuries). Today it only covers health workers. We demand that the compensation shall be the same as in the case of other workplace injuries.
1 million Euros for schools, pre-schools and adult education
Lärarförbundet’s advocacy resulted in additional financial resources in the national budget presented in September 2020. During 2021 the municipalities will have an additional million Euros which may be used for pre-schools, schools and adult education. These funds facilitate necessary adaptations such as renting additional premises for education, contracting additional cleaning services, hiring more staff or enhancing ICT-support in online distance teaching.
The right to work from home
We have convinced ministers and state agencies to clearly communicate that schools and pre-schools shall be considered as ordinary workplaces, where the recommendation to work from home when possible, applies. This was not the case when the pandemic started, but the situation has improved.
There are still employers who do not follow this recommendation. We receive daily reports from members who are called to face-to face meetings which could be carried out online. This unacceptable, and we keep pushing the issue through our local union work.
Pregnancy benefits if there are risks in the work environment for the pregnant
The corona virus SARS-CoV-2 has been classified as a risk class 3 contagion. The National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) has assessed the consequences of catching covid-19 during pregnancy. There is a higher risk of giving birth prematurely for if a person in the later stages of pregnancy (from week 20) falls ill with covid-19.
When the National Board of Health and Welfare classified pregnant women in the latter part of the pregnancy as a risk group, Lärarförbundet demanded an answer from the government about what compensation could be used if their employer couldn't guarantee a safe working environment, or make work from home possible, for pregnant women. A couple of days later Ardalan Shekarabi, the Swedish minister for Social Security, later announced that pregnant women in the latter part of the pregnancy who cannot have the work environment secured with, for example, homework or relocation will be able to receive pregnancy benefits.
Read more about the pregnancy benefits during the corona pandemic here (Swedish Social Insurance Agency website)
Lowered expectation on teachers during the pandemic
During the pandemic our members’ workload has increased considerably. Our requests regarding reducing some demands on teachers have been met. For example, the compulsory evaluation support in 1st grade has been removed and national tests are now optional. Teachers may choose if and when these tests are carried out, based on the local situation and the content of teaching. We have also convinced the National Agency for Education to clarify that the focus during the pandemic is on teaching, while other activities such as parental meetings and development projects may be cancelled or postponed.
Unfortunately, the parliament and the government have not yet managed to produce all necessary legislative adjustments, which is not acceptable. Lärarförbundet demands that the government reduces the legal requirements during the pandemic, for instance regarding development conferences and individual development plans. A pandemic affects what is feasible to achieve in school. Obviously, we will keep up our advocacy on these matters.
Massive effort to provide additional support and information
We have noted a considerable increase in the number of members who contact us during the pandemic. Many are worried, some have questions, while others need concrete advice regarding how to act in their workplace. Lärarförbundet has therefore hired extra personnel to respond to everyone who is asking for assistance. We have developed a specific website ”All you need to know about corona in school”, which is updated regularly. In relation to this website we have developed a newsletter.