Teachers across the north west of England are set to strike on Thursday of next week—and close a third of schools in England and Wales.
This is the first walkout in a joint NUT and NASUWT union campaign to defend teachers’ pay, pensions and conditions. Further regional strikes are planned in the autumn and a national strike in November.
Debs Gwynn is a teacher and NUT rep in St Helens, Merseyside. She told Socialist Worker, “People are positive about the strike, although a few are worried about money. But it’s easy to win an argument with them about why we need to strike.
“Schools in Liverpool are planning to have picket lines. And the PCS union has organised solidarity walkouts at lunchtime to support us.”
Elsewhere teachers are building solidarity with strikers. In London, the NUT has called a demonstration on Tuesday of next week.
Alex Kenny, a member of the NUT’s national executive committee, told Socialist Worker, “There’s a sense that the strike is a national event. There are plans for rallies and demonstrations on the day—in the north west and elsewhere. It will have a big impact.”
Caroline Ezzat, an NUT rep in east London, told Socialist Worker, “We’ve organised a lot of parent meetings to explain the dispute to parents.
“I’ve also been going into schools without union reps to talk to teachers. This isn’t just about pay—we’re standing up for education as a whole.”
Caroline said she is happy with the union’s strategy of holding regional strikes and then a national one. Other teachers wanted national action sooner and to see wider strikes across the public sector.
NUT union members have repeatedly voted for national strikes in ballots. “These strikes are a good start,” said Katie Park, an NUT rep from Waltham Forest, east London. “But we need to be doing more really. We can’t just take what Michael Gove is doing.”
Jo Northage, an NUT rep in Brighton, agreed. “The general feeling in my school is that there is support for taking action,” she said.
“But to get the publicity we need national action—and it shouldn’t just be teaching unions. We need solidarity from workers in the NHS and other public sector workers. We should be fighting together.”
The strike in the north west comes as teachers are under increasing attack.
Gove wants to bring in performance related pay and rip up teachers’ national pay system from September this year. Governing bodies are now finalising the details of their pay policies.
Already teachers report angry union meetings and votes in their schools for strikes to defend pay.
Big rallies in the run-up to the strike showed the mood to fight. Teachers have to make the walkouts the start of a mass campaign that can drive the Tories back.
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