Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/246/24845
'Virgin Strikers' On The March
IN A week when MPs put their pay up to £55,000 and schools minister Estelle Morris' pay to over £135,000 - teachers in London went on strike to demand enough money to live on.
Debra Morano, Newham National Union of Teachers (NUT) committee member, personal capacity
All teachers have suffered a barrage of attacks, including OFSTED and SATS testing, targets and monitoring. This workload adds up to a 60-hour week. Young teachers are leaving the capital in droves, fed up waiting for their pay to increase as fast as the paperwork.
It was unanimously agreed by NUT members in my school to vote for strike action, so the whole school was closed on 14 March. In the build-up, members borough-wide were enthusiastic about the demonstration. At last we had an opportunity to make our voices heard.
Estelle Morris' comments, through pursed lips, that teachers are 'unprofessional' and the strike would be detrimental to the children's education only served to fuel our anger. Teacher shortages will prove far more damaging in the long run.
A finely tuned operation for the demo included a human banner with 20 members wearing a letter each (a logistical nightmare!), whistles and a collection of catchy political songs, undoubtedly stirred the more experienced teachers around us.
Many were on strike for the first time, some wearing homemade badges declaring: "I'm a virgin striker."
The success of the march is due to the work of Socialist Party and Socialist Teachers' Alliance members who mobilised from the ground, leading general secretary Doug McAvoy and the right-wing of the union.
The 10,000-strong demo was inspirational, with members demanding £6,000 London weighting, matching the police. A fresh layer of members are ready to escape their cloak of 'professionalism' and see themselves as workers. They understand the need to campaign with other public sector unions, particularly UNISON.
The Left needs to be bold, to ensure that this enthusiasm is built upon. The NUT leadership can no longer ignore its members.
"THIS IS not a day just to let off steam and wait until next year. Rather it has to be the first step in an ongoing campaign of action to get £6,000 for all London teachers now - before the London education service collapses.
I will be arguing that the union should lead that action, particularly in view of UNISON now moving closer to a strike on the same issue and talks of merger with the NASUWT."
Linda Taaffe, NUT executive member for outer London, addressing the strike rally
AT LEWISHAM NUT's annual meeting before the strike, we unanimously agreed a motion calling for a £6,000 allowance and if the government fails to respond, to take further action next term.
Martin Powell-Davies, Lewisham NUT
We believed this should include further strike action co-ordinated with other unions like UNISON and the second school teachers' union, NASUWT. We also called for non-strike action such as refusal to cover or split classes beyond the first day of unforeseen absence. This was put to the rally at the end of the demonstration and was agreed by popular acclaim.
Local union secretaries will be meeting on 21 March to discuss our next moves and there will be further discussion at the NUT conference over Easter.
In The Socialist 22 March 2002: