Education International 8th World Congress 2019 Bangkok Thailand Panels

"Whither Brexit: The View from British and Irish Teacher Unions

The extraordinary political divisions revealed by the June 2016 referendum that narrowly approved Brexit –short for British exit from the European Community – have only deepened in the three years since it was held. The devastation that a unilateral ‘hard Brexit’ would wreak on the British and Irish economies, and the potential damage it could do to the peace process in Northern Ireland, has led to repeated attempts by the Conservative government to negotiate ‘softer’ versions. But a ‘soft Brexit’ that would include agreements to remain in the single European market, to allow for free movement of people across British-European Community borders or to maintain the status quo along the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland have proved unpalatable to the hardline supporters of Brexit, who argue that it is no Brexit at all, and Parliament has been unable to muster a majority in support of any proposal, even with extended deadlines. The result has been a British political system in dysfunctional gridlock and chaos, leading to the resignation of Prime Minister Theresa May. The ground for a ‘soft Brexit’ appears increasingly tenuous: on the one hand, the leading candidate to succeed May, Trump favorite Boris Johnson, has been making plans for a no deal ‘hard Brexit’ without parliamentary approval; on the other hand, the Labour Party has recently shifted its position to call for a new referendum.>/p>

Brexit poses a particular set of challenges for British and Irish higher education, as British membership in the European Community has facilitated cross-border faculty employment and student registration. The impact of Brexit on colleges and universities in the United Kingdom and Ireland are thus a particular concern for British and Irish teacher unions.

Our panel will discuss the political forces behind Brexit, the current state of play in efforts to resolve the crisis around it, and its potential effects on education, along with the approaches their respective unions have taken to the issue.

Mary Bousted, General Secretary, National Education Union (NEU), UK
John MacGabhann, General Secretary, Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI), UK
Patrick Roach, Deputy General Secretary, National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NAWUWT), UK
Moderator: Leo Casey, Executive Director, Albert Shanker Institute, USA

"Barriers to Trade Union Rights and Democratic Activism: Hong Kong, South Korea, Thailand"

From Solidarność in Poland and COSATU in South Africa to CUT in Chile and UGTT in Tunisa, trade unions have been in the forefront of struggles for democracy for the last half century. Teacher unions in particular have a played leading role in these struggles, as we stand at the nexus of the labor movement, education and civil society. And given this frontline position, teacher unions are often among the first targets of authoritarian rulers and states.

In East and Southeast Asia today, progress toward more open and democratic forms of governance, with critical battles over respect for labor rights, the rule of law and universal suffrage in free elections being waged as we meet. In recent days, massive demonstrations have filled the streets of Hong Kong in protest against measures that would undermine the autonomy of the city and extend authoritarian rule from the mainland; in Korea, the Korean Teachers Union is fighting to regain its legal status, after being outlawed by a right wing government in 2013 which engaged in mass firings. In Thailand, freedom of association for most working people, including teachers, is denied. In each of those countries, teachers and teacher unions have strong, organic ties to democracy movements.

We will hear from three figures in the middle of these battles.

Tin Fong Chak, Vice President, Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union
Hyunsu Hwang, Vice President, Korean Teachers and Education Worker's Union
Piya Kritayakirana, Program Manager, Solidarity Center Thailand
Moderator: Leo Casey, Executive Director, Albert Shanker Institute, USA