Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/279/24465
Teachers, council workers: Marchers Demand United Action
THOUSANDS OF striking teachers and local government workers joined the 26 November demonstration calling for big increases in London weighting allowances.
The demonstrators' overwhelming support for the firefighters reflected their anger at government attacks on public sector pay and conditions. Workers were impressed by the Socialist Party's leaflet, paper and petition, including our demand for a one-day public sector strike against low pay and privatisation.
Unfortunately, the unions' leaders weren't as determined as their members. In the post-demo rally, Doug McAvoy of the NUT said that this "was not a political campaign" or against the government's policy on public-sector workers!
He urged teachers to wait for the review body report in January before deciding on further action. But they've waited eight months since their last action on this issue!
An angry teacher from Hertfordshire said that the government was "papering over the cracks" in education by employing "teaching assistants, nursery nurses and anybody with a pulse" in classrooms.
Stuart from Ealing quoted Nye Bevan's words - "a silent scream provokes no response" - to justify the action, while a Camden teacher explained that she spent her summer holidays driving a bus through Central London to earn extra cash!
Debra Morano, of Newham NUT and a Socialist Party member, offered a clear programme. Opening the rally with a broadside against the government, she said it was "unreasonable" for Blair to expect teachers to work longer hours and weekends, to live like a student years after qualifying and to expect to afford £150,000 for a mortgage.
Teachers couldn't wait months for more action. The dispute must be escalated now. Further united action with other public-sector workers is vital to win the claim.
AT A very successful Socialist Party meeting after the demo, GLENN KELLY, UNISON London regional executive member, said that: "The employers are worried. They have brought forward talks not due until 12 December to early next week.
"This answers those at the tops of the unions who didn't want UNISON on the demo or local authority workers and teachers striking together.
"The government are frightened by the firefighters' strike, and the strike today. The idea of 'march together, strike together' shown in practice today, has given confidence."
NUT national executive member LINDA TAAFFE, speaking in a personal capacity, said
"Teachers can't win if we don't make an impression. It's taken eight months to have our second one-day strike. We can't continue in a timid, unobtrusive way, look at the firefighters.
"There's only so much research you can do, there's stacks of evidence for our just claim - we need to turn to action. And the next phase in the action needs to be united in a big way."
In The Socialist 29 November 2002: