Surrey Unison Photo: Paul Couchman
Surrey Unison Photo: Paul Couchman

‘We refuse to be left behind!’

Surrey County Unison members were joined by NEU striking teachers and the local Surrey FBU secretary, outside the Surrey County Council (SCC) offices in Reigate on 2 May.

We got a great response from passers by and from other council workers. We meet with the councillors on 9 May to present our case and hear their response. We are leaving them with little doubt that we are taking our pay campaign seriously and will ballot members at SCC if no seriously improved offer is made. We refuse to be left behind!

Over half of the people attending the lobby left with a copy of the Socialist (many of them featured in our Unison May Day greeting in that issue). Callum Joyce, Socialist Party regional organiser, spoke  alongside myself, local NEU and FBU reps, and a few fellow Unison activists.

Paul Couchman, Surrey Unison Branch Secretary and Staines Socialist Party (personal capacity)

NEU strikers fighting for the future of education in Woking

Socialist Party members joined striking teachers at the NEU rally in Woking to show support and solidarity in the fight for a better education system on 27 April.

At a time of year that can be hard for teachers to take the decision to strike, it was heartening to see so many prepared to take this step – pushed by constant unfunded and below-inflation pay rises that have brought schools to the brink.

Teachers spoke of familiar stories of materials and supplies being bought from their own pockets, children’s education suffering from the lack of money for up to date textbooks, and the immense pressure that teachers are feeling.

We heard from NEU rep Dan Warrington, a new Socialist Party member, about the all-too-common issues facing teachers. He made clear that it is not strikes that are hurting children’s education, it is chronic underfunding.

Low pay is making it a struggle to recruit. And it is even harder to retain staff.

70% in the sector are women and more and more of who take maternity leave are not returning as the finances don’t add up. Teachers’ demands are only to get pay back to a liveable level,  a teacher at the top of their pay scale has lost £64,000 since 2010.

There was also support from Surrey County Unison, with branch secretary Paul Couchman speaking.

The NEU strike mandate is coming to its end. A strong effort will be needed again beat the Tories’ undemocratic 50% turnout threshold. While strong support remains, making sure enough people vote is the main focus to keep the pressure on the government to properly fund our schools!

Sam Church, Surrey Socialist Party

NEU strike day poem

Jennifer Mawson, a striker teacher in Surrey, agreed for her strike day poem to be published:

Has it always been this bad?

Was I just too young to know

About this gap between the rich and poor

That’s really starting to show

People queuing up at food banks

Single parents in despair

But I see in my newsfeed

We made another billionaire

Then Ofsted comes around

Calling schools inadequate

But I’m trying to hire a teacher

And I’ve got no applicants

So we take industrial action

And we said what we meant

But the Government responds

By funding 0.3 per cent

They say it’s just not doable

They’re taking us for fools

You know a civilised society

Needs hospitals and schools

We do the only thing we can

Standing up together

Marching the streets shouting

Solidarity Forever