Teaching Sunak and his government a lesson!

Workers' Fight workplace bulletin editorials
17 January 2023

In the end, teachers voted overwhelmingly - by 90% - to strike, despite the doubts of their own union officials!  And turnout, at 53%, easily beat the legal threshold, despite ballot papers getting lost due to the postal strike!

    The good news is that the first strike day is called for 1 February, the same day that 100,000 civil service workers - and now also train drivers - will be on strike.  And this is the same day too, that the TUC has called a "day of action" against the government's latest anti-strike law.  Maybe the TUC has finally found its teeth...

    However the current anti-strike laws, which set legal thresholds, have prevented the most low-paid of all teaching staff, the teachers' assistants, from joining the strike.  These TAs make up as much as 28% of school workforce today and are used and abused as (very much cheaper) substitutes for teachers.  Their conditions are so bad that at the beginning of the school year there were 40,000 TA vacancies!

    In fact the teachers themselves aren't only fighting over wages - although the 5% offer comes on the back of falling pay; in real terms they've lost 23% (by RPI) since 2010.  Today schools are expected to find this 5% "pay rise" from their existing budgets.  This means that to pay teachers, schools have to take money from elsewhere, by cutting jobs, cutting building maintenance, and cutting equipment expenditure.  Already they've been cutting the courses they offer to pupils.  They received no increase in funding between 2015 and 2020, and since then only 5% - far behind inflation.  Already 1 in 5 school buildings are in urgent need of repair, with the risk of collapse rated "critical"!

    Sunak, who has cancelled his deluxe trip to Davos this year, must definitely feel a little rattled at this point of the strike wave: the polls show that 51% of the public support the teachers' strikes, but only 21% support his government.