The government approach to the public sector strikes – particularly the teacher’s strike tomorrow – is quite simply, appalling. In response to the teacher’s strike, the government has resorted to the classic tactic of using emotional blackmail and blatant misrepresentations to try and sway public opinion in their favour. All of a sudden, single parents matter when they never mattered to them before. The children – the pupils – are also being dragged into this. “Won’t someone think of them”? But these words are hollow and insincere and amount to little more than public relations gimmicks. That shouldn’t surprise us: since they came to power, the Tories have relied rather heavily on PR. I thought Blair was pretty bad for his addiction to PR but Cameron is a former PR man; he lives and breathes it. Never before has a someone with a background in PR occupied the highest office in the land. It is a first. But his efforts to make use of PR looks a little tired and clichéd.
Teachers have gone on strike before, yet given the rhetoric coming from the mouths of the Tories, it would seem that this was the very first time that teachers have voted for industrial action. Teachers are now painted variously as “irresponsible” and “selfish” people who are more concerned with their unions than with teaching. Predictably, right wing commentators like the Daily Telegraph’s Hon Tobes and Katharine Burbalsingh have chimed in with their smears and dark mutterings of “leftist conspiracies”. I won’t bother to quote or link to their blogs but needless to say the blogs all attract the usual rubbish from their braindead readership about banning trade unions and how the ‘left’ is ‘destroying education’.
Burbalsingh’s blog draws on this Torygraph article by Graham Paton et al. In it, he accuses the National Union of Teachers (NUT) of “bullying” headteachers into going on strike. The opening paragraph reads,
The National Union of Teachers (NUT) has written to schools throughout England and Wales telling them they could be in breach of employment law and health and safety regulations if they keep schools open during the pensions-related dispute.
What this paragraph doesn’t tell you is that Gove, resembling a weak-kneed version of Kitchener, has suggested that parents could volunteer to keep schools open. What Gove overlooked was the fact that anyone who works in a school needs to have a Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check. Any headteacher who allows parents to act as ersatz teachers would be breaking the law. This is not about the omnipresent ‘red tape’. This is a matter of child protection. The NUT was right to warn headteachers of such issues. Indeed, just because someone is a parent, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they cannot be child-abusers as well.
Further down the article,
As tensions between ministers and union activists escalated, schools were warned against bringing in supply teachers to cover for striking teachers and told any moves to plug gaps in the timetable with permanent staff would be “very damaging” to morale.
But then who says that supply teachers aren’t and cannot be members of trade unions? It’s a terrible presumption.
The strike is only for one day but to hear Tory commentators talk, you’d think it was for a month. As someone pointed out to me the other day, no Tory had a problem with the days lost for the Royal Wedding. Indeed the Tory press has depicted the teacher’s strike as a regular occurrence. The last such strike was in 2008. This is what the Guardian said in 2010 when the NASUWT threatened to strike,
The last teachers’ strike was in April 2008, when at least 1 million children in 8,000 schools went without lessons after the NUT, which represents more than half of the profession, clashed with the government over a pay deal that it said would leave its members worse off. It was the first national teachers’ strike for 21 years.
That’s right, before 2008, teachers hadn’t voted for a national strike for 21 years!
The Sun’s tone is as you’d expect,
IT is time to make a stand.
On Thursday, a hardcore of militant teachers will try to shut all Britain’s 23,000 state schools by striking over pensions.
It would harm pupils and cause family childcare chaos.
The Sun says this cynical strike must not succeed.
Today we call on parents and the majority of moderate teachers to keep schools open.
For decades, education has been in the grip of hardline teaching unions.
There’s one thing missing from this leader: an image of Winston Churchill giving the ‘V’ Sign. In typically hysterical fashion, the Scum have dubbed the strike “The Summer of Hate”. You will recall from this blog, that the word “hate” has now been conscripted to serve ideological masters. For years the US right in have used the word in the same way to claim the moral high ground. Is it childish? You bet it is.
Even Ed Miliband has said the strike is wrong. Are we still in the 1980’s? Milly Band says,
You do not win public backing for an argument about pensions by inconveniencing the public – especially not while negotiations are ongoing.
A point has been missed by a country mile here. The government told the public sector workers what it intended to do (while labelling them parasites) and it had no time for negotiation. Only as the strike day approached did the government consider negotiation. Lest we forget, on 17 June, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander preempted negotiations between the government and the unions by announcing the coalition’s intentions for public sector pension ‘reform’.
This Tory-led government has been gunning for education since it came to power. They introduced free schools. They announced that they were going ask Niall Ferguson to rewrite the history syllabus, then it cancelled the Better Schools Programme. “Won’t someone think of the children”? Won’t someone think of them, indeed.