Let’s talk about the strikes

Workers deserve the right to strike. For far too long in the modern world, people without power have served those with power for relatively little gain. As a History teacher, I can tell you that we’ve had systems like this in place as far back as the Battle of Hastings, when William I introduced the Feudal System. That’s long gone, but you could argue that, in some ways, little has changed. And yet, this is something that we as a whole seem to have accepted.

It’s not right.

If there is something that isn’t fair, or right, or good, in the workplace, and nothing has been done about it, then your voice must be heard. There have been a lot of strikes recently in the public sector. Paramedics, nurses, border forces – to name but a few – have been striking recently for a plethora of reasons. As a fellow worker, I support their plight completely.

Teachers have also been striking. The first strike of this season has been and gone, with regional ones now coming up before more national strikes if the government fails to come to the table with a decent offer of planned improvements. Regardless of your opinion on the strikes, I think that it’s important for voices to be heard – and for teachers, no voice is more important when it comes to teacher’s strikes than the voices of teachers themselves.

Who are the strikes against?

Let’s clear this up very quickly: I can’t speak for any other teacher but myself. If I choose to strike, it won’t be against my workplace. I’m so lucky to have such a supportive and healthy working environment that understands the plights of normal classroom teachers. Instead, if I strike, it’s against an unsupportive government. Here’s the low-down on recent policies:

  • A teacher’s pay has increased by 8.9% for some. That’s great! Until you realise that inflation has skyrocketed, meaning that even with the pay increase, you’re still not really much better off. And in real terms, a teacher’s pay has shrunk by over 20%. That’s not good.
  • Schools must fund the pay increase. That’s great! That means that teachers will be paid more! Until you realise that the additional pay has to come out of the school’s existing budgets. Which is manageable for some schools, but impossible for others without forced redundancies. Even then, all schools will be sending more cash to the teachers that should be used on the students. So, because of the government forcing through a non-funded pay rise, students are less well off. Aren’t we teachers to ensure the absolute best for our students? It’s nonsensical.

Why strike?

For some teachers, working conditions can be really bad – almost unmanageable. I’ll reiterate that the support provided by my school is superb, but why as a worker should you accept your current conditions if they could be improved? Some people stirke for the benefit of others – for those whose schools might not be as supportive as mine. For those whose schools require government intervention to force through more money to make up for what can be pretty devastating working conditions for some.

There’s a reason that the government has been failing to achieve its recruitment targets into the profession. Invest into your education systems and the dedicated members of staff, who want nothing more than to commit themselves to bettering the lives of young people, and it’s almost inevitable that you’ll hit your recruitment targets. With the right people going into teaching, the lives of young people will improve, since they’re being given even more supportive head starts in life.

Failing to invest in education sets our young people up for failure.

Striking with a caveat

It is so tempting, as a worker part of the well-oiled capitalist machine, to think ‘well, why should they strike, when I’m paid so much less than them?’ Don’t bring others down in their attempts to improve their lives. Instead, band together and support your fellow workers to ensure that conditions improve for all.

The fight for improved workers’ rights, pay and working conditions is not – and never should be – against each other. It is against those who have implemented those conditions in the first place. And it’s our responsibility to improve our lives – and the lives of others – together.

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