The government aimed its fire at teachers in the run-up to Wednesday’s strikes.
On the one hand the Tories claimed that teachers had no power. On the other, they said that they were disregarding the children they claimed to care for and want to teach.
But the solid strikes by education workers proved them wrong. Their message rang out loud and clear on Wednesday.
Teachers fighting for the future of education won widespread support from parents and pupils alike.
At Park View secondary school in Haringey, north London, Unison and NUT members picketed together.
Jeannette has recently become the Unison rep at Park View. She said, “This won’t only affect our pensions, but also our children’s pensions.
“Why don’t the bankers give back the money they got from the government and their big bonuses—than we’ll do the maths again.”
Teachers were united in proving their worth—and their power. The vast majority of schools across Britain were shut. In whole swathes of Wales every school was shut.
Many people brought their children onto their picket lines and demonstrations. The strike was about every generation fighting for education.
And the government’s attempts to divide workers fell flat too.
Suzanna, a special needs teacher at Park View said, “I’m very angry. I’ve been teaching for 25 years and now they want us to work longer and get less.
“We need more strikes and disruption to make the government listen.”
Anger at the bankers was a theme across Britain.
At Springwell Community School in Staveley, near Chesterfield, Unison rep Helen Cheatham said, “The extra contributions we are being asked to pay won’t go to the pension fund.
“It is all going to pay off the deficit caused by the banking crisis. We are proud to picket today for a decent pension for all.”
Jill Adams from Rotherham NUT said, “This is an attack on our fundamental rights as workers. We are fighting not just for our pensions but for our children to have a decent future.”
That spirit of defiance and unity was the same in colleges and universities across Britain. Everywhere lecturers and students picketed together.
Luke Evans, a researcher at Goldsmiths College in south London, said, “We had about 300 people on six picket lines—students and staff. The college was shut down.
“Theatre students refused to cross the picket line.”
Koos Couvee, a journalism student at Goldsmiths, added: “It’s been brilliant. Students have a role to play in beating this government’s austerity programme.
“But I’ve never really seen the value of students acting alone. So it feels good to act alongside workers.”
At Barnsley College 30 staff and students were on the picket line and shut down the college.
Around 80 students, lecturers and support staff picketed outside Hull University.
At the Institute of Education in central London UCU branch president John Yandell said, “This strike alone won’t deliver victory. But it is an important step.
“The strike was a sign that the trade union movement is standing up to fight against this government.
“It is becoming more clear that there are two sides in society. It is up to the trade unions to defend the gains of the welfare state—and that’s what this struggle is all about.”
Pickets at Lambeth College had great support from passers-by.
Jo is a technician and a first-time striker on the picket line at Waltham Forest college. She said, “I couldn’t do my job at 68—I’m struggling at 47. I’m supporting my union as they support me.”
Some 75 students occupied Sheffield university in solidarity with striking workers.
Essex and and Liverpool university students also occupied.
Teesside University UCU and students held a four hour, 50-strong picket line.
In Cardiff, Ian Bosworth, a lecturer and UCU branch chair at Coleg Morgannwg, said, “We need to call on the TUC to call more action.
“It’s obvious the coalition has been weakened by today, but it’s certainly not defeated. Today has shown that strikes are the way to beat the Tories.”