Teacher temps claim “immoral” working conditions

More than a quarter of lessons are taught by temporary teaching staff who claim immoral and borderline illegal working conditions with months-long delays for job contracts to be finalised. Photo: Guy Wolff/Maison Moderne

More than a quarter of lessons are taught by temporary teaching staff who claim immoral and borderline illegal working conditions with months-long delays for job contracts to be finalised. Photo: Guy Wolff/Maison Moderne

The education ministry is working on processing contracts with teaching staff more quickly, a spokesperson said after criticism from unions and reports by teaching assistants and substitutes of months-long wait times to receive their wages.

The OGBL’s teaching branch and the ACEN teaching assistants association during a press conference last week criticised the government over delays of payment and claiming the ministry is on the threshold of violating labour law in how it manages short-term contracts with teaching staff who do not have civil servant status.

Using a loophole, teaching assistants can work for years without being offered a permanent contract, the unions said. “All our requests for a meeting--the last dating 7 February--have been ignored,” said Isabelle Bichler of the OGBL during the press conference.

“It is definitely immoral,” said Luc Wildanger of the ACEN group about the treatment of teaching assistants, claiming that some even begin working without a job contract, which would be illegal.

Already last year, the OGBL had slammed conditions for teachers at the public European schools, saying teachers had been left without pay or health insurance for months by the ministry.

“The contracts are usually finalised as soon as possible,” a spokesperson for the education ministry told Delano in an email. “However, they can only be processed if all necessary documents have been correctly submitted. If one or more documents are missing or not handed in in due time, delays will unfortunately occur.”

More than a quarter (28.9%) of lessons are taught by temporary teaching staff, according to data published last year. Luxembourg in 2022 relaxed criteria to hire teaching staff after shortages to accommodate Ukrainian refugee children in the public school system.

The “large number of contracts that have to be concluded before the start of school in September” can cause additional delays, the spokesperson said.

During last week’s press conference, union representatives had already pre-empted this argument, with Wildanger saying the start of the school year “doesn’t just fall from the sky every year.”

The spokesperson concluded that “the ministry is making efforts to remedy this situation and find means for a quicker handling of the contracts during this peak period.”

“Run after your money”

Cindy* started working as a substitute teacher at a primary school in September 2021. She didn’t receive her first salary until November. “I had to pay rent, insurance… my life,” she told Delano in an interview, adding that she was receiving warnings for unpaid bills. “Some colleagues of mine had to wait six or even eight months for their salary.”

She said it is almost a running joke between substitute teachers that they have to wait at least three months to get paid. “We laugh about it, but it’s not really funny.”

On her type of contract, Cindy was told ad-hoc the hours she would work that day--usually receiving a call between 7-7.30am--and then sign an agreement upon arriving at the school, which also meant she was paid for only these hours.

In some cases, agreements went over several days, for example because a teacher was sick, but were cancelled at the last minute by the school. “They cancel the contract however and whenever they want, and then you still have to run after your money.”

Her contract as a substitute teacher was extended at the end of December and, again, she didn’t receive her salary on time in January.

Cindy finally decided to quit teaching. “I really liked this job. I’ve had a lot of cool jobs. I was a flight attendant before, but I really enjoyed this.” The constant administrative hurdles, however, “took all the joy out of it.”

With a shortage of teachers, Cindy said she doesn’t understand how schools and the education ministry can treat their staff in this manner. “It goes on like this for years,” she said. “I’m done with it.”

Name changed at the interviewee’s request.