Like me, a lot of readers will have heard the news that the N.U.T. membership has voted in favour of strike action in our schools. Should we really be surprised?
A strike is, and should be, the last resort of the employee. A strike is a destructive force for both the activists and for the employer. In the case of teachers there is a third "victim" - the children who may well be smelly and horrid but are innocent of fixing poor working conditions and imposing ridiculously low pay settlements.
The starting salary for a teacher, who will have completed at the minimum a first degree (that's three years intensive study) and will in all likelihood have then done a year's post graduate study will be £20,627 if the current pay offer is implemented. That, frankly, is disgracefully low. Just to put it in perspective, most railway employees are on a lot more than that without any study required and all training is salaried.
Teachers nurture the future of society and they're feeling very undervalued.
The teaching profession has had below inflation salary reviews for years now. All that the NUT is requesting is an inflation-level settlement this year of 4.1%. Forget the headlines screaming about 10% pay demands, that is hubris from the dunderheaded right wing press. The union is being both fair and realistic.
The government is trotting out its usual nonsense - so let's take a look at two main thrusts of the government argument (quotations taken from today's Independent):
1) "A strike will serve only to disrupt children's learning...". Yep, so try avoiding a strike, then; try offering a proper pay settlement instead of forcing a pay cut on some of the most valuable members of our society.
2) "...the [strike] ballot attracted only a 32% turn out...". Just as an example of illegitimate elections if turnout is taken as a measure, The European Parliamentary Elections since 1979:
1979 31.6% // 1984 32.6% // 1989 36.2% // 1994 36.4% // 1999 24%! I'm quite sure the government will fall over themselves to withdraw their MEPs or at least tell them they may not continue to draw their salaries as their election was on such a low turnout. (NB the fact I've used this example does not make me anti-EU; I am, though, anti-hypocrisy).
So - pay the teachers what they're worth, not what some policy wonk who does naff all except count beans says would be best for that ephemeral beast "the economy". Perhaps taking a decent amount of tax from the snout-in-trough brigade in the city or making so-called "non-doms" pay their full share would provide the money to properly remunerate the real workers of this country. While we're at it, let's get top rate tax back to where it should be, at the least 50% and way above that once you're earning over £200k.
Oh no, I forgot, this Tory government in pretend Labour clothing is too far up the arses of the wealthy and far too busy getting itself into position to accept top salaried directorships after we boot them out to even think about upsetting the hyper-rich. It's the teachers, the lower grade civil servants and the working classes who'll have to pay and keep paying because the craven lickspittles in the government won't take money from where they should to provide it where it's needed and deserved.
We'll all feel sorry for the children who might get caught up in an industrial dispute that is not of their or their parents' making, but our sympathies should, must, lie with the teachers who have been forced into the desperate position of even contemplating a strike.