Thursday, April 24, 2008

NUT Strike is an Opening Shot

Went to the NUT organised rally in Southampton City centre today. It certainly beats teaching Year 9s. Might do it more often. I would say there were around 200 people at the rally - not massive, but not bad either. In addition to NUT strikers, several representatives from PCS, UCU, UNISON and two workers from UNITE were there too. Some coastguards reps were also there - coastguard staff on the south coast are on strike today and have organised two previous strikes in the past few weeks. The man from NUT central office was clear that this was likely to be the first strike in a long term campaign, not a one-off. NUT leaders seem pretty serious about this. He said something about one of the right wing papers (might have been the Telegraph - but I can't see anything on their website) comparing the NUT to the NUM in the 1980s and warning that it must be smashed. This is, of course, a totally absurd comparison - for one thing teachers aren't being beaten up in the streets and neither are they facing unemployment and utter ruin - but it does suggest that the ruling class is quite worried about the example the NUT is setting for other public sector unions at a time when the economic climate looks to be pretty bad and steadily worsening. I picked up a rather hopeful leaflet from the Socialist Party calling for a 24 hour public sector general strike - well, things aren't exactly at that stage, but they are, nevertheless, getting quite interesting. Currently, 1.5 million civil servants are consulting on a below inflation pay offer and their unions are recommending that they reject it. Another million workers in the NHS are consulting over a similar pay offer.

The TV news reports, predictably, contain much gnashing of teeth in relation to the 'disruption' the strike has caused children and their poor, long-suffering parents. Strange how single mothers in particular have suddenly become so popular - interviewed about the difficulties the strike is causing them. The media doesn't usually simper over them so much. Strange, too, that for some reason the media doesn't seem interested in the intolerable disruption caused to parents by the closure of many schools on election days. Will the news reports on the 1st of May feature the plight of young mothers as they try to organise child care for the day, or wail about the disruption to children's education as their schools are turned into polling stations for the day? Probably not.

I've decided not to vote in the forthcoming council elections. The Labour Party candidate is a teacher and was not there at the rally. In fact I don't think she was on strike. Another reason not to vote Lib Dem surfaced today, too. BBC News report that Lib Dem smoothy (and Education Spokesman) David Laws, wants teachers' unions to be bound to a no strike agreement. Well done Lib Dems - anything else you could adopt from Mussolini's politics while you're at it?

Just watched the local news' coverage of the strike and Southampton rally - it was generally positive, even sympathetic. Good to see that most of the parents interviewed supported the strike. There was a priceless moment, however, when a parent who didn't support the strike told the interviewers how worried she was about the negative impact the strike might have on her daughter's performance in the upcoming 'STATS exams' - not quite worried enough about these exams, it seems though, to have bothered to find out what they're actually called or what they actually are.

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