TEACHERS, school support staff and council workers struck across London last week. Tens of thousands walked out demanding a higher London weighting allowance for the extra costs of living and working in the capital. Thousands demonstrated and they were joined by striking firefighters. Socialist Worker spoke to some of those marching about the day, and how they say the fight going forward.
'THE STRIKE and demonstration were marvellous. There was a real sense of unity across the public sector in London, and also with the firefighters. People linked issues together. Many pointed out that the same government that says it has no money for public sector pay can easily find billions for war. Our National Union of Teachers (NUT) general secretary, Doug McAvoy, is talking now about waiting for the outcome of the teachers' pay review body in January before deciding our next move.
We should be ready to respond if any offer is short of what we want. Instead of an across the board increase in London weighting the government is sending signals that it would prefer targeting any extra money to areas 'of need'.
That will reinforce the drive towards a two-tier system and set schools and teachers against one another. We need an across the board increase for everyone. Camden NUT has called a rally in February. The union should be saying that if there is not an adequate offer we'll be balloting on action and that rally should be a launch pad for it.'
Jane Bassett, vice-president Hackney NUT (personal capacity)
'I AM marching on what is our fifth day of striking for a pay rise. It is just too expensive to live in London. It's right that we are united with the teachers, and we also have to support the firefighters. If they win it makes easier for everyone to win.'
Chrissie Donnelly, Tower Hamlets Unison member and council worker
'YOU HAVE to make a stand for what you believe in, and today is about opening people's eyes to what is going on in society. The way things are going this government will have us back to the 1800s. I'm a teaching assistant and we definitely need more pay, especially in London. So do other public sector workers. The government says it doesn't have the money. Excuse me but there is enough money when it comes to war. I think Blair is just losing the plot.'
Shirley Rowbotham, Unison member and teaching assistant, Lewisham
'AS A firefighter I'm marching with the teachers and council workers today because we all have to stand together as public sector workers fighting for decent pay. Staff at local schools have been to our picket line with money and solidarity, and we have to show the same solidarity to them now.'
Pat Goulborne, FBU member Tottenham
'IT WAS great to see the unity, with council workers, school staff, teachers all out together.Some in our union are now talking about more selective action, pulling out sections of workers. On its own that won't be enough. We also need broader all-member action across London. We've had several one-day strikes now.
The key to getting the wider action which can win is unity with other workers. We need to discuss how to achieve that. That's what I hope will be the focus of a meeting of reps from London councils' Unison branches on 17 December.'
Brian Butterworth, branch secretary Brent Unison (personal capacity)