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Posted on 25 April 2008 at 0:00 GMT

Reports of the 24 April strikes

"We've been down so long, this is what it feels like to be up."

Teachers on strike on 24 April 2008, photo Martin Powell-Davies

Teachers on strike on 24 April 2008, photo Martin Powell-Davies

"This is the next stage of our fight for better pay. It shows we're not the only ones in the same position."
"Will the Government have to listen to us? Yes - but only if today's strike is the start and not the end of the matter."
These were the words of teachers, lecturers and civil servants taking strike action on 24 April against the government's policy of pay restraint for public sector workers. Below are reports and photos from around the country. If you want to add a report from your area email us at hq@socialistparty.org.uk.

Leeds rally

Jane Aitchison addresses the Leeds rally

Jane Aitchison addresses the Leeds rally

Over 500 strikers, students, school students and members of the public braved the rain to hear speakers outside the city art gallery on Thursday morning. Speakers included UCU national officials, Pat Murphy, NUT NEC and Jane Aitchison, PCS DWP Group president, Unison and school students and young teachers.

Jane Aitchison (a Socialist Party member) spoke of being proud of standing shoulder to shoulder with so many other public sector workers in the biggest public sector pay strike in a decade. She said that for her workers some of whom earn a mere 24p above the National minimum wage this was not just about keeping up living standards but was a fight against poverty pay.

With over half of PCS members hit by the abolition of the 10p tax rate it was an insult to tell these staff that they could make it up with in work benefits. Jane said " My members work hard they shouldn't have to rely on benefits, they should be paid a decent wage"

Jane also paid tribute to the teachers saying " there is no need to apologise for disrupting the education of children in this country - they will have learned a very valuable lesson today watching their teachers standing up for themselves and for what is right and what solidarity means - sticking together to win."

Bradford Rally

Over 300 people packed into a conference room at valley parade football ground to hear speakers from NUT, UCU, PCS and UNISON.

Ian Murch ( NUT) spoke about he success of he strike in Bradford and the huge number of teachers joining the NUT since the strike action had been called.

Rob Williams, PCS NEC, and a Socialist Party member, spoke powerfully about how public sector workers were the victims of inflation and not the cause of it.

The overwhelming majority of those there were young teachers who had never been involved in strike action before, one of whom spoke passionately about the need for the campaign to continue.

Birmingham

Over 1,000 striking teachers, college lecturers, civil servants and Birmingham council workers attended a lunchtime rally in the city centre.

The heavy rain threatened to reduce attendance but eventually the sun shone on workers' solidarity.

The rally heard speeches from officials of all the unions involved. Although the speeches reflected the workers' anger, not much in the way of future strategy was forthcoming, with the exception of the speakers from the NUT and PCS.

Baljeet Ghale, Past President of the NUT called for further public sector unity. Janice Godrich, President of PCS, said that the Birmingham councillors should "look out of their council windows overlooking the rally and hang their heads in shame about attacking low paid workers in Birmingham in this way".

Janice Godrich also made the valuable point that "today, teachers and civil servants are on strike but low pay affects all public sector workers. Imagine the impact if the five million public sector workers in the UK took action together. Unless the government changes its course, the PCS stands ready to work together with our sister public sector unions to make this a reality."

A striking council worker said: I'm a housing officer. I'm one of those who stand to lose money because of single status - that's why I'm out on strike. The council just want to privatise us and plunder our wages and we're not standing for it.

The Socialist proved to be very popular with over 70 copies sold on the three stalls we held.

Bristol

An estimated two thousand striking union members and their supporters united to stage a march through central Bristol after numerous pickets in the morning. Despite efforts from local media to stir up anti-teacher feeling the turn out for the protest was phenomenal and overflowed the rally venue. Nina Franklin (NUT) and John McInally (PCS) addressed both the rally and those left outside. Two teacher comrades from Bristol branch, Sheila Caffrey and Rae Lynch were invited to speak on the platform. Their passionate speeches criticising government attacks on the public sector were greeted with applause and shouts of support from the assembled. Calls for continued action, and a united public sector strike were also warmly received.

Cambridge

There was a militant mood as about 300 people packed in to the Cambridge Guildhall for the NUT/UCU Strike Rally. Representatives from public sector unions addressed the rally, with widespread anger at New Labour and talks of united action.

A message of support from Bill Mullins of the National Shop Stewards Network was read out by the NUT Eastern Regional Officer who also spoke of the tragic loss of Steve Sinnott. He went on to explain that teachers are suffering yearly pay cuts of 1,600 and that the deal on offer would lead to three more years of cuts and was unacceptable.

Teachers on strike on 24 April 2008, photo Martin Powell-Davies

Teachers on strike on 24 April 2008, photo Martin Powell-Davies

Martin Booth, Chair of UNISON Cambridge Health, spoke of the hypocrisy of Dave Prentis backing the strike, when he wanted health workers to accept a similar deal. He declared that it was time for the union bureaucrats to 'break their friendship with New Labour' and said that he hoped to see action across the public sector in opposition to Browns attacks.

Frankie Langeland from Socialist Students addressed the rally and told of the occupation at University of Manchester. One of the demands had been for decent pay for all workers and they supported the strike action being taken by the NUT/UCU. She said that the main parties offer no solutions for working class people and trade unionists and was well received and applauded when she urged people to sign the declaration for the Campaign for a New Workers Party. She went on to say that students and teachers united in struggle with other workers can fight for a better world and that public services should not be neglected while New Labour line the pockets of big business.

Following the rally there was a lively march with trade union banners from UNISON, UCU, NUT, CWU. Striking teachers gave leaflets to the public and spoke to them for their reasons for striking. They were well received and despite the negative and biased coverage from the mainstream media, people in general seemed to support the action being taken.

Lambeth

Over 300 people marched through the centre of Brixton in an action jointly organised by Lambeth UCU and NUT.

Two things immediately caught the eye as the march proceeded. Firstly; the buoyant mood of the strikers, mostly young women, who were out on strike for the first time.

Second was the very obvious public support the march got from people on the street. Many passers-by on the street waved or gave the thumbs up sign. This also boosted the mood of the strikers.

The overwhelming mood on the demo was one of confidence in their ability to take on the government and win the dispute.

Central London Rally

The room was full and they had to lock the doors to stop it overflowing. The majority of the many thousands of demonstrators simply didn't fit into the hall.

The audience was overwhelmingly teachers with a sprinkling of lecturers and civil servants. It was about half and half young teachers and older ones.

The chair of the rally Alex Kenny asked at the start those who was on strike for the first time, about a fifth put their hands up. He then asked who was on strike 21 years ago and again about a fifth put their hands up.

Alex Kenny then said that if pay had kept up with inflation over the past period then new teachers would have been 700 better of than they are.

The young and old teachers around me gasped when they were told that the CEO of Arcadia, Paul Green, had paid himself 1.3 billion in dividends, and then passed the money on to his wife, living in Monaco, to avoid paying any tax. As one speaker said, the teachers pay claim could have been paid by the unpaid tax of the Green family alone!

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS, raised the need for further strike action across the public sector.

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the UCU, also spoke of the need for further action, calling on the other public sector unions to join in, saying "all it takes is a ballot".

Newcastle

Interviews from the picket lines:

Brian Morrison PCS DWP Campaigns Officer (personal capacity).

"I've always thought we need to co-ordinate strikes in the public sector. Teachers, civil servants and so on striking together to maximise the impact. My family are from the shipyards and were Labour through and through. Now I wouldn't dream of voting Labour."

Keith Maddison PCS Northumbria Branch assistant secretary (personal capacity)

"This is the next stage of our fight for better pay. It shows we're not the only ones in the same position."

Reading

"We've been down so long, this is what it feels like to be up" said Robert Wilkinson to the packed Berkshire NUT rally at RISC in Reading. Reflecting on the "tremendous increase in union casework" over the last 2 years from teachers stressed by their working conditions, Robert said that the action meant all those on strike did not need to feel isolated any more.

24 schools in Reading alone were closed by NUT action. One of the main reasons teachers were taking action in Berkshire is the cost of living in the area forcing teachers to either look for jobs further north or outside the profession altogether. According to Rob Wilkinson, young teachers are forced to "live like students" or with Mum and Dad.

Young teachers I spoke to after the rally were worried about not being able to keep up the mortgage and pay off their student loans on their low salaries. The NUT is also concerned by the damaging effect of high staff turnover on children's education. We had a good response to our call for a 24 hour public sector strike and NUT members welcomed the Classroom Teacher initiative.

Bridgend

Alec Thraves and Malcolm Johnston spoke to John Waters, PCS Branch, Secretary, Bridgend/Rhondda/Cynon Taff DWP at the Bridgend picket Line:

"Again we are pleased with the response for this day of industrial action although I feel action by one or two groups is inadequate in the long term and I think we need to get more coordinated action across the whole of the public sector.

"Other public sector workers are balloting for action at the moment so perhaps the next step would be to involve UNISON, teachers, UCU, and all the civil service departments that can be involved in industrial action. This is an attack on all the public services by this government, which has lost touch with the working class, and we need to get as many bodies involved as possible to bring this to a successful conclusion".

Lewisham

Teachers on strike on 24 April 2008, photo Martin Powell-Davies

Teachers on strike on 24 April 2008, photo Martin Powell-Davies

Southampton

Southampton teachers on strike 24 April , pic Nick Chaffey

Southampton teachers on strike 24 April , pic Nick Chaffey

Manchester

Manchester demo of striking teachers and civil servants, photo Doug Hinsley

Manchester demo of striking teachers and civil servants, photo Doug Hinsley

Hannal Sell speaks on Radio 2 show

Hannah Sell, the Socialist Party deputy general secretary, appeared on Radio 2 on the the Jeremy Vine show on Thursday 24 April 2008 to defend the teacher's action and put forward the Socialist Party's view. The teacher's strike was the first item discussed on the Jeremy Vine show and Hannah defened the teachers action against a private school teacher in the studio who opposed it. Unfortunately, the April 24 BBC radio 2 Jeremy Vine show is no longer available online.

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