Socialist Worker

New school strikes can beat Michael Gove

United strikes by teachers next month can defend workers’ conditions and children’s education—and hit the government hard, writes Sadie Robinson

Issue No. 2370

Teachers marching for education in London in June

Teachers marching for education in London in June (Pic: Socialist Worker)


Britain’s biggest teaching unions have announced dates for more strikes to defend their pay, pensions and conditions.

NUT and NASUWT union members in Yorkshire, the Midlands and Eastern regions will walk out on Tuesday 1 October. Those in London, the North East, South East and South West will strike on Thursday 17 October.

Unions also plan a one-day national strike in November. The action follows a successful walkout in the north west of England on 27 June.

Kevin Courtney is deputy general secretary of the NUT. He told Socialist Worker, “This is a vital campaign for education and our children. 

“Michael Gove, the most reviled education secretary in living memory, is attacking the entire pay, pensions and conditions package. He claims his changes will lead to good teachers getting more pay, but the evidence shows the reverse.”

Chris Keates is general secretary of the NASUWT. She told Socialist Worker, “The strikes will be an opportunity for teachers to demonstrate their anger and frustration at the way they are being treated.

“Attacks on their pay and conditions are impacting on the children and young people they teach.”

Tory education secretary Michael Gove has tried to make teachers public enemy number one. He wants to bring in performance-related pay and has attacked their pensions.

Meanwhile teachers’ conditions are getting worse.

Andrew McBurney, an NASUWT member, struck on 27 June. “Sometimes I work 13 hour days and I’ve got a young family,” he told Socialist Worker. “There’s a constant pressure to deliver for exams.  Something’s got to change.”

Many teachers see the strikes as a key way to defend education.

Jess Edwards is a primary school teacher in south London. She said, “In my school there’s a real sense of hatred at Gove. 

Angry

“Teachers are angry because they know his curriculum plans are bad for children. We don’t want to have to do things we don’t agree with just to keep our jobs.”

The unions have called a series of rallies in the run-up to the strikes. Teachers in London and Nottingham were set to rally this Saturday.

Jess said, “I think London will see a big rally. I’ve got people at my school who say they are definitely coming.

“In schools where people are talking to teachers about the rallies, they will find an audience.”

The Tories and their friends in the media claim that teachers’ strikes are unpopular. Yet the walkout in June won widespread support.

Thousands of people joined rallies across the region. Workers from other unions, parents and children turned out to show their support and applaud strikers as they marched through city centres.

PCS union member Lee Hammond joined the teachers’ march in Liverpool. 

“It’s nice to see other unions fighting back,” he said. “We should all be out together.”

Wales is not included in the planned strikes in October as the Welsh government has engaged in talks with the unions. Union leaders say Gove could avoid strikes by agreeing to meet them.

But at every stage in the dispute Gove has refused to listen to the unions or engage in meaningful talks. He is on the offensive against teachers and is attacking the strikes because he knows they will be effective.

The walkout on 27 June shows the potential for taking successful action that can have an impact and build workers’ confidence to go further. 

Many union leaders have said they back coordinated action. The planned national strike in November is an opportunity to bring more unions together in united action that can beat the Tories.


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Tue 10 Sep 2013, 18:56 BST
Issue No. 2370
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