Yesterday we reported on the strike rally in London, where teachers
went on strike against Gordon Brown’s pay freeze. It was the first time
the teachers had gone on strike for a generation. They were
joined by members of the public sector union PCS and the lecturers
union UCU. The following article contains reports on local action
around the country
by George Deacon
"We have got to
try! We have got to Fight!"
Di, Laura, Lucy and Anna were part of a 300 strong contingent of teachers and
civil servant workers at the rally in Norwich and become the latest `recruits`
to join the growing ranks of a ‘militant army’ that is forming in the belly of
Brown’s New Labour Britain. As members of the NUT and teachers at a local
primary school their message was simple and direct, `enough is enough`
Consequently these four women did not find their way onto the front page of the
local press (Eastern Daily Press), nor were they considered worth the time of
the local BBC outside broadcast unit `look east` at the `Forum` later to go out
as part of the local `news` for the region. These women had turned up with a
large group from their primary school to give their support for the first
national strike of the NUT in 21 years.
Anna, in her first year
as a teacher, said "The pressure of work is incredible. Many of my friends
think they will leave teaching and this is not unusual."
Lucy, a single parent with two young girls,
said that "As a newly qualified teacher I am finding it very hard
financially. I had to take out a loan to supplement my income while I was
studying for my PGCE (post graduate certificate in education). Now I get working
tax credit, which means that, with my salary, I have to pay back a proportion
of my loan each month. It is very demoralising and the pressure of work makes
life very hard. Teachers do not earn the average quoted in the national press
of £35K – that is a rotten lie! To get that figure the government has added in
the pay of management, head teachers and London weighting. Many of the teachers
I work with earn nothing like that!"
Di said that she works
on average 50 hours a week and with working through her holidays she estimated
that she is working an extra 300 hours a year, all of it unpaid. She reminded
me forcefully "Teachers do not get paid overtime!" Di then explained
that having worked full time, she decided to reduce her hours and took a part
time post. Now she works 4 days a week as opposed to 5 but nothing has changed
in terms of her workload. "On my ‘day off’ I still have to work. The half-day
a week we are allocated to do class preparation and other necessary
administrative tasks isn’t enough and anyway we never get the time to do these
things even when it is scheduled. I never finish work before 10.30pm on a
school day and many teachers will come in early (7.30am) to get ahead. In
reality by reducing my hours I have voluntarily taken a pay cut! I am angry
because this government is taking advantage of the teachers’ good will."
Laura, a teacher for over 20 years said that
"I am here today to support our union (NUT). We have 345 pupils in our
school and we know many of the parents. I have not received one negative
comment by parents about what we are doing. I have friends in other unions who
have gone into work today but everyone support our action. It has taken 21
years for this to happen but there comes a point when you have to say `enough is
enough`. We have got to try, we have got to fight!" If the teachers were
not militant before today, they are now! For united action of all public sector
workers! Strike together!
by Ian Aylett
There was a very good turn-out in Cambridge with 300 or so, mainly teachers, at
a rally in the Guildhall. It was predominantly female and almost entirely an
NUT event, though the platform also had speakers from the local hospital and
county council Unison branches, as well as a UCU rep from Cambridge regional
college and even a student.
After a minute’s silence for the late NUT Gen Sec Steve Sinnott, the regional
NUT full-timer gave a militant speech, making the important point that after
the recent level of pay rises the proposed three year deal will effectively
mean six years of declining real pay.
The government lie about public sector pay rises causing inflation came in for
a lot of flak and agitational attacks on Brown and government priorities
received lots of applause.
The local hospital rep made probably the best received speech of the day. He
explained that there had been a bit of a tussle at Unison conference over
whether to accept the pay offer but they had succeeded in forcing a
national ballot. He said that despite the national leadership’s decision not to
make a recommendation many local branches wouldn’t be so shy – and he hoped to
see the teachers at the Unison strike rally in the near future.
The Chair closed with a call for NUT members to take the arguments back to
their schools and help continue the process of rebuilding local organisation in
preparation for future action, which, he said, may take a ‘discontinuous’ form
– limited local strikes at different times as instructed by the national
After the rally, despite some rain, there was a march round Cambridge city
centre with union banners and plenty of enthusiastic chanting. At the end
people continued to mill around, seemingly reluctant to end the event. A very
important point was made to me by a local CWU activist who reckoned that most
of those attending had never been involved in such action before.
by Beverley Turner (UCU
Over 150 people attended
the National Union of Teachers (NUT) strike rally at St Patrick’s Catholic
Centre in Huddersfield on Thursday morning. Striking teachers were joined by lecturers,
University and College Union (UCU) members from the local further education
college, and members of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS). Representatives
from each union spoke at the rally, along with the branch secretary of the
Kirklees branch of Unison.
The PCS representative Stella Dennis told the meeting
“400,000 teachers, civil servants and lecturers across the UK are standing
together in opposition to unfair pay. This is the largest display of industrial
unity amongst public sector workers for decades and I’m absolutely proud to be
part of that”.
Over 10,500 PCS members took strike action across the Yorkshire
and Humber region. The speakers highlighted the inequalities that exist when public
servants are expected to accept pay deals below the rate of inflation, when at the
same time billions of pounds are being thrown at the banks and obscene levels
of pay are enjoyed by such valued members of society as hedge fund managers. A
quarter of PCS members earn less than £16,000 a year and many members,
including some working in the coastguard, are on the minimum wage.
teacher spoke of the difficulties she and many of her colleagues experience
when trying to find affordable housing, coping with rising prices and paying
off a student loan on a newly qualified teacher’s pay.
The failure of the New Labour
government to value teachers and other public service workers was emphasised. A
recognition of the crises and mayhem underlying the economic situation, and its
disastrous implications for living standards, led to an overall mood of ‘enough
Two themes were repeatedly stated and gained a positive response; that
this was the beginning of the fight back with more concerted action needed, and
that united action with other public sector workers was a key strategy in
fighting for fair pay and conditions.
by Ron Graves
(Peterborough Trades Council)
In Peterborough, the
civil servants’ union was supported by Peterborough Trades Union Council at
several picket lines across the city, where public support was expressed by
many people taking leaflets, honking horns and waving at the picket lines.
A proposed NUT event at Peterborough Regional College
appeared to have gone astray – at least, there was absolutely nothing happening
when we went there at the advertised time. The strike does seem to have been
well supported at the city’s main secondary schools, however. This was less
true at the junior and infants schools.
By Steve Brown
At the NUT/UCU/CPS demo in Newcastle Upon Tyne were
550-600 people, with banners, placards, balloons and stickers who heard various
officials from the NUT, UCU and the regional TUC speak and give support to the
The rally was held at Grey’s Monument, the traditional
gathering place, with banners from the main unions involved and from UNISON and
the CWU. A fire engine drove past and honked support, which lead to a big
cheer from the crowd.
The mood was defiant and good tempered, with a good
smattering of school students in the crowd too. Present were regional and
national officials of the UCU, sympathisers of Socialist Appeal who work with
us in the Labour Party, Trades Councils and the Labour Representation Committee. One of these comrades was one of the main speakers on the day and gave the
best, class based arguments and received the biggest response from the
by Luke Wilson
Socialist Appeal supporters attended the rally in Leeds, where one of our comrades, Richard Miles,a UCU branch officer was
one of the speakers at the rally, his rousing speech well received by the
After the rally comrades discussed with other members of the UCU branch about the dispute and which way forward. A whole number of journal of journals were sold. A UCU regional organiser who was present was asked why the UCU had failed to call the whole of Higher
and Further Education out (only FE came out on strike – in Leeds, that meant
the two biggest institutions, Leeds University and Leeds Met, were open for
‘business as usual’). Unfortunately the usual excuses of the illegality of secondary action
were given to justify this situation (surely it wouldn’t be difficult to find one dispute amongst the
myriad of problems in HE to ballot on). In the future such arguments will cut no ice with those workers who see the need for united action of all workers against the bosses.
Report: Teachers strike for better pay
By Steve Jones, Thursday, 24 April 2008
Strike Together! Against the public sector pay gap
By Socialist Appeal, Tuesday, 22 April 2008
NUT Votes for Strike Action
By Ed Doveton (Wakefield NUT), Thursday, 03 April 2008