Tens of thousands teachers struck last week—and showed the scale of opposition to the Tories.
The strike affected more than 2,700 schools across the north west of England on Thursday of last week. It won enormous support from other workers, parents and the public.
Tory education secretary Michael Gove is attacking teachers’ pay, pensions and conditions. But he has united teachers against him.
“The pressure is ridiculous,” said Jan Gaule, an NUT union member in Liverpool.
“People are getting fed up with all the changes–to our pensions, our conditions and our workload. The next ten years scares me—and I’m expected to work for much longer, until I’m 68.”
Teachers described the stress of being unable to do the thing they went into teaching for—to help children learn.
Julian Tinsley, an NUT rep, told Socialist Worker, “There’s a lot of frustration among teachers because there isn’t one area of teaching that isn’t being touched.
“We want to teach and give children the best start in life. But we’re not able to.”
Jeannette is an NASUWT member from Anfield, one of the poorest areas of Liverpool. “This isn’t just about pay—the whole education system’s being demolished,” she said. “And it’s always the poorest children who suffer.”
NUT member Onli Cheung added, “We’ve got unannounced observations and targets. It’s very stressful. You can’t focus on teaching and learning.”
Teachers described working all hours to keep up with new paperwork and endless tests.
“I wouldn’t advise anyone to go into teaching now,” said Alex, an NUT member. “It’s sad—but we are being vilified.”
NASUWT member Andrew McBurney agreed. “The only time you hear about teachers in the press is in a negative way,” he said. “We’re being trodden on.
“It’s not enough to keep your head down and get on with it. I’ve not had a pay rise for three years and the cost of living keeps going up. Something’s got to change.”
Yet for all the attacks on teachers by right wing commentators and politicians, the strike won enormous support.
People applauded teachers as their march wound through Liverpool city centre.
“We’re in Unison and we work in the NHS,” said one woman cheering them on. “We’re all in the same boat.”
The marches and rallies were big. Up to 5,000 marched through Manchester, some 2,000 in Liverpool and around 1,000 in Preston.
Workers in other unions joined the marches while the PCS union held rallies across Britain in solidarity (see INSERT LINK).
The action showed the potential for widespread, popular resistance to the government.
It was the first walkout in a joint plan by the NUT and NASUWT unions.
Further regional strikes, and a national strike, are planned in the autumn. But it’s clear that many workers would back much stronger action. And many want to see wider coordinated strikes or a general strike to force the Tories back.