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All Out To Win On London Allowance
SCHOOLS ACROSS London will close on 26 November as thousands of teachers join the one-day strike and march to the joint union rally at the Oval cricket ground.
Martin Powell-Davies, secretary, Lewisham National Union of Teachers (NUT)
Last March, NUT members responded enthusiastically to the call for a one-day strike to win a decent London allowance. This time, the action will be even stronger. NUT members will be marching with striking colleagues from the other main teachers' union, NASUWT, as well as support staff and other council workers from UNISON.
This united action is not just for pay, it is for education. Schools in London are facing a crisis. Teachers are quitting the capital in record numbers.
Constant teacher turnover, reaching 25% and more in some London boroughs, destroys the stability schools and pupils need. Even where posts are filled, schools have to rely on overseas staff and unqualified teachers.
Why should teachers stay in London when they know they would be better off if they took a job elsewhere? Metropolitan Police recruits are paid £6,111 London Weighting but teachers in Inner London are paid only half that, less again in Outer London. This just isn't enough to compensate for the rising cost of rents and mortgages.
The government always demands more from public-sector workers but they won't pay us the salaries we need to pay our bills. Ministers dismiss across-the-board increases in London allowances as 'dead weight costs'. They want to impose divisive discretionary bonuses instead. But we all suffer from the same high cost of living!
Instead of ending teacher shortages, New Labour hope they can exploit teaching assistants by using them to teach classes on the cheap. Teachers and support staff have to stand united against these threats and demand decent pay and conditions for all education workers.
The November strike will have a big impact but to make this government change course we have to show that we're in for a serious fight. Unions should warn ministers that if the review body report in January fails to recommend a decent London allowance, we will be balloting for escalating strike action, stepping up from one-day to two and three-day strikes.
We'll need a determined campaign to win the ballot and to raise the funds needed to sustain members through extended action. But if this is what is needed to win, then this is the action we must take.
March assembles: 10.30am, Tuesday 26 November, Lincoln's Inn Fields, (Holborn Tube)
Rally at: 1pm, Kennington Oval cricket ground.
In The Socialist 22 November 2002:
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