Fury at the Tories burst onto the streets of Camden, north London, last week as teachers struck against £20 million cuts to key children’s services.
The strike was fantastic. Many were taken by surprise at how many teachers joined picket lines—and by how many other workers supported them.
Gerry Badcock is the NUT union rep at South Camden Community School.
She told Socialist Worker, “Because of the TUC march on Saturday people are really stirred up.
“Here the entire play service is being cut. The cuts will also take away support for children with special educational needs and those who need help with English.
“Our school is in one of the poorest areas in London and the impact on families will be awful.”
There were big picket lines across the borough and lots of support for the strikers.
Richard Neill, an NUT rep at Primrose Hill Primary School, told Socialist Worker that lots of parents support the strike.
“We’ve already lost a couple of therapists,” he said. “Teachers will be left to try and help children who have special needs.
“The council says there’s no money. But our future should be sacrosanct.”
Hannah Jefferys, a teacher at Acland Burghley School, said parents had signed a card on their picket line to show support.
Ann Boater, from Carlton Primary School, also reported support from parents and said some had been on the TUC march the previous Saturday.
For some, the viciousness of the cuts exposed bigger problems with the system.
Ann told Socialist Worker, “We need a big change and a different economic system.
“The government shouldn’t be cutting jobs—it should be investing to create more, especially green jobs.”
While strikers gathered to march through Camden, cars and lorries honked their horns in solidarity. Teachers from across London joined the strikers. Workers in the RMT, UCU and PCS unions came too, as well as students.
As the march wound its way through the streets, a firefighter came out onto his balcony and waved an FBU flag, saying, “I’ll support anyone fighting the cuts.”
Strikers rallied in Hamilton House, the headquarters of the NUT. The strike clearly gave people confidence to keep fighting.
Andrew Baisley, branch secretary of Camden NUT, told the crowd, “We’ve shown today that we can stand up to enormous cuts.
“The harder and more expensive we make it for the council to sack teachers, the more services we will save.”
Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT, said, “It’s brilliant that you’ve been out on strike today. Until these cuts go away we have to march together and, where necessary, strike together.”
Some of the biggest cheers went to Ruby Hirsch, a school student. She said, “Saturday’s march showed that we are many and they are few.
“We saw the power that we have when we stick together. We need coordinated strikes—we need to start building now for a general strike.”
Camden showed the willingness of workers to strike against cuts. It had an impact because it brought teachers together.
The union should use the vibrancy and confidence of the strike to escalate the action. A victory against council cuts, won through strikes, would send shockwaves across Britain and boost every worker arguing for a general strike.