Public Sector Fightback : Far Too Little…but still NOT TOO Late By Graham Durham, UNITE shop steward (personal capacity
05/08/2014 by socialistfight
Gove sacking gives a glimpse of what can be achieved –his policies must be reversed, Organise Co-ordinated Strikes NOW
Tipping point? The head of Ofsted has said he urged Michael Gove not to remove the chair of the school’s watchdog from post. Sir Michael Wilshaw said the education secretary had consulted him on his wish “to do something about the chairship”. BBC Education News, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-26151572
The panic in the Tory/Lib Dem government over the unpopularity of education policies led to the shuffling of the Tory pack and the humiliating sacking of Michael Gove. Coming four days after the NUT strike action and other public sector strikes on 10 July by UNITE, UNISON and GMB there could be no greater example of the power which public sector workers have .
This should be an inspiring example to all public sector workers who have felt the massive pain of job losses, harsh pay reversals and privatisations. All members of these trade unions should now demand joint co-ordinated public sector strike action to halt further privatisation ,smash the pay cuts and defend jobs across the NHS, local government and education.
The signs that the trade union leaders are prepared for this are not good at the time of writing. UNISON has called a second national strike on pay for 30 September but this has not been co-ordinated with other unions. The London demonstration of 10 July called initially by the NUT was poorly supported by other unions on strike that day .
This poor co-ordination echoes the weak response from trade union leaders to the savage attacks experienced by their members.The pension dispute was abandoned with only tiny concessions gained and all public sector workers experienced increased deductions from their shrunken pay.
Education is a case in point. After limited joint action teacher trade unions –particularly the NAS/UWT and ATL- have left the NUT alone as the only union prepared to use strike action on any issue. Yet this reasonable approach has only seen the Tories expand numerous attacks on teachers. The massive academy programme creating thousands of entirely independent state funded schools has seen huge abuses of teacher conditions from abuse of short-term contract s to harsh and speeded up capability procedures being used to sack more experienced, and therefore more expensive, teachers. The Free School programme has seen an extension of public money given to schools which were not needed, unaccountable funding to religious and other groups and the predictable employment of unqualified teachers and the dismissal of national conditions. Gove has also forced through payment by results policies which commence in September.
This privatisation of education is leading to demoralisation in the teaching profession and an unheard of gap between high earning Academy chain executives and Heads and the teachers experiencing the worst pay for thirty years and the most punitive regime since teachers had to bring their own coal to class in the Victorian era. Add to this the constant threat to all of an Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) judgment which will lead to forced academisation and the passivity of some trade unions is inexplicable.
For working-class children the narrowing of the curriculum and the imposition of ever more harsh behaviour initiatives, aping the culture of Gove’s beloved private schools, mean that those children with special needs or who have talent in creative areas are being denied opportunities to progress. Instead they are being prepared for life in Tory Britain – low wages ,job insecurity and passive tolerance. It is no accident that following the 10 July strikes Cameron talked up further restrictions on trade union rights in a future Tory government.
The story in education of privatisation and attacks on national conditions can be repeated across health and local government with NHS patients and the most vulnerable in society the victims of cuts and lacking a co-ordinated lead to follow.
The NUT, NAS/UWT, ATL, UNITE, UNISON and GMB have a huge responsibility to defend education, health and vital services and the evidence is there that the Tory/Lib Dems can be forced back .
Joint strike action for pay and against Tory destruction of services should start with an all out stoppage and marches on 30 September to build for further extended action. The Tories can and must be beaten.