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‘We can’t afford not to strike!’ Jane Nellist speaks out on the strike of the teaching unions

“We can’t afford not to strike”

The article below was originally printed in the current issue of ‘The Socialist’ newspaper

Jane Nellist of the NUT (personal capacity) and Socialist Party. Photo from Coventry Telegraph

Jane Nellist of the NUT (personal capacity) and Socialist Party. Photo from Coventry Telegraph

Jane Nellist, National Union of Teachers (NUT), Coventry joint secretary, personal capacity

Last term’s strike in the North West showed how determined teachers are to defend their pay, pension and working conditions. On 1 October NUT and NASUWT members across the East and West Midlands, Eastern, Yorkshire and Humberside regions will join together to take one day of strike action.

When I explained in a school meeting about the changes to the pay policies as well as the likelihood of more attacks from Tory education minister Gove on our working conditions, including longer working hours, fewer holidays and less preparation (PPA) time, teachers were even more determined to take strike action. What’s more, they wanted the day to be named for national strike action in November.

“We cannot afford not to strike”, that was the view of one young teacher in her second year of teaching. She went on to describe how she often ends up in tears because of the pressure. She feels she can’t possibly achieve the workload without working every evening and all weekend. “How can I do this until I’m 68?” she asked. “How could I do this if I had a family?”

Teachers are realising that if they move schools, there is no guarantee that their new school will pay them the same rate. It’s going to be harder to move up the pay scales, with more links to ‘performance’ and the goal posts changing regularly.

Already we have lost over 15% of our take-home pay with frozen cost of living increases and pension increases. With mortgages harder to get, it’s going to make it more difficult for teachers to get housing.

If it had not been for our two days of national strike action in 2011, the cuts could have been much worse. We know that taking action can make a difference!

Although an inconvenience to parents, they understand why we are forced to take this action.

Following further regional strike action on 17 October, the NUT and NASUWT are planning national strike action if the government fails to listen to their demands.

Given that so many sectors and workplaces have grievances with their employer and with the government, it would be so much more powerful if we joined together and took coordinated strike action on the same day.

What is clear is that we have to stand firm and, if necessary, be prepared to take more strike action. The government attacks are aimed at getting education into a fit state to be privatised – it’s not good for teachers and it certainly isn’t good for our pupils. Just like the young teacher said – we cannot afford not to strike!