Education workers on the march on 1 February (pic: Guy Smallman)

Schools and sixth forms

Some 300,000 teachers in schools, sixth forms and colleges have begun strikes for a pay rise. Many are tired of heavy workloads, poor teacher retention and stretched school budgets.

After three regional strikes last week, a national strike alongside other unions on 1 February and a one day strike by sixth form and college workers, strikers have to intensify the fight. Dozens of coaches are booked on the 15 March to bring thousands of education workers from across England and Wales to protest on Tory budget day in central London. 

Lucy, an NEU union rep in west London, told Socialist Worker, “People are really looking forward to 15 March. We plan picket lines in the morning, and then we will all hop on a bus to central London. “My school has recruited another rep and recruited loads of other staff to the union—many of them are support staff who see us fighting and want to join.”

Fran is a teaching assistant in south London and, while not officially on strike, refuses to cross the picket lines on 15 and 16 March.  “I’m talking to people about the rally on 15 March and arranging a delegation to join it,” they said.“It will give us so much confidence when we see how many people are fighting back.”

While workers should make the strikes on the 15 and 16 March as big as possible, workers also need to tell union leaders that one or two days of action isn’t enough. NEU district secretary Stefan Simms told the rally in Ealing, north London, last week, “If we have not beaten the government by 15 or 16 March, then we need to escalate—escalate hard and fast.”

He added, “I do not think that we should just keep lobbying and petitioning MPs. “I think that’s a good thing, and we should do it, but it isn’t going to make this government listen to you on its own.  “I don’t think that a one or two day strike will make this government think or stop.  “Look at what they did to the RMT and the CWU unions. They’ve been on strike for six months, striking two or three days at a time.”

He said that the teachers’ strike is already “starting to work”. “Gillian Keegan said she wasn’t going to discuss pay this year” he said. “Suddenly she wants to discuss pay next year. What happened? We went on strike. 

“It’s only pressure and only us fighting for what is right that is forcing this government to listen.”

Civil service

In the civil service, some 33,000 PCS union members are set to strike for the first time, joining the 100,000 that struck on 1 February. After the success of last month’s strike, every government department being balloted to join the walkouts hit the 50 percent turnout threshold and voted yes to action.

The vast bulk of those joining work in the HMRC tax office, one of the biggest government employers. Simon Brett works for the HMRC in Leeds and spoke to Socialist Worker in a personal capacity. “People are definitely up for striking,” he said. “The action on 1 February certainly encouraged people in our building. They’ve also seen action by other groups of workers and seen the potential power of strikes.”

Simon says he and activists at his workplace have begun making preparations for the day. “HMRC isn’t the only government department in our building in Leeds, he said. “There are several others that will be striking on the day. 

“I’m contacting the reps there to arrange a joint picket line. And I want to use all of our networks to get as many members there and make it as large and as loud as possible.” They’re also looking at other ways of getting strikers actively involved in discussing and debating the way forward. 

“We’re putting on members’ meetings to ask opinions about what kind of industrial action may be necessary and why,” Simon said. “I’m arguing that we will need more than one day of industrial action.” In many other government departments, workers will be striking for the second time. 

Deimante, who works for the Ministry of Justice in Manchester, says that the experience of walking out last month encouraged a lot of people who had been first time strikers. “The first time people weren’t really sure about what would happen on the pickets—that we’d just be standing around,” she said. 

“But now people have seen that pickets are good fun. “It’s convinced people that they should join the picket this time.”

She added that people in her workplace are also looking at ways to get more involved with the union and how to take the fight forward.  “The majority of people talk about escalation but aren’t really sure how,” she said.

“One person I’ve spoken to is in favour but thinks maybe one or two days more would be good.” She added, “He’s in the process of becoming a rep. “He’s become interested since the strikes started to happen—not just in the PCS, but since the rail workers began last year people have seen striking as a way to win change.”

Royal Mail 

In Royal Mail, some workers will be wishing they’d been called out on strike too. For a time last year, the members of the CWU union were at the forefront of the great pay revolt. But for more than two months—and despite a thumping vote last month to keep striking—union leaders have held off calling action.

Instead, they’ve spent weeks squeezing out a deal from bosses who only want to smash jobs, pay and conditions. They’ve already said they want to reach an agreement by Sunday of this week—just days before the united strike on 15 March.

But, having already agreed to rubber‑stamp attacks on jobs and conditions, a rotten agreement seemed likely. Adam, a Royal Mail worker at Stansted Airport, said striking on 15 March with others could have helped to put postal workers back on the front foot.

“It’s not a good idea to call strikes off for talks,” he told Socialist Worker. “The union leaders say that if we don’t pause for talks, we lose management’s goodwill.  “But management have given us nothing—people are having their jobs ripped up, people are resigning from stress and being bullied.”

He added, “We’ve had a lot of downtime since we last struck in December. “The best way to get momentum back would have been to strike alongside half a million other workers.”

Amazon joins the action

Workers at the BHX4 Amazon fulfilment centre in Coventry plan to walkout on 15 March as part of a seven-day strike.  Darren told Socialist Worker that strikes so far have been “fantastic.” 

“Workers at Amazon want to keep fighting. On picket lines, workers are taking the lead. It isn’t just GMB officials that are leading things.  “We have been blocking roads around Coventry and stopping lorries from entering the fulfilment centre. “Many more people are joining the union.” 

Darren says it’s vital that Amazon strikes alongside others. “We want to show solidarity with other workers. Other unions have given us a lot of support. Now we want to return the favour. 

“The country is screaming, and the Tories seem oblivious, so I think the more workers that come together, the better.  “I hope our strikes will send a message to others, especially those who think it isn’t possible to organise in their workplace, that they can do it.”

National Health Service

Tens of thousands of junior doctors are planning to join the 15 March mass strike. By then they’ll be into their third day of a 72-hour walkout, bringing the NHS to a standstill. Junior doctors hold the health service together and include almost all medical staff below the grade of consultant. Most work incredibly long hours on dangerous shifts where they are in charge of the care of scores of patients.

They are responsible for most medical decision-making at night and at weekends. One doctor in south London explained why he voted yes to strikes. Dr Souradip Mookerjee shared his payslip from January, which shows a take home salary of just £1,671.47— despite sky-high London rents and soaring bills.

That’s all that was left after deductions of more than £1,000 in tax, national insurance and his student loan. The average rent in London is now £935 a month each, meaning Souradip is likely trying to make his remaining £736 cover bills, food, travel and clothes— and his indemnity insurance.

NHS bosses estimate doctors’ strikes could lead to 125,000 operations needing to be rescheduled, despite there already being a backlog of about 57,000. But after more than a decade of pay cuts, Junior doctors’ patience has snapped. Last month they voted by 98 percent for strikes on a massive 76 percent turnout.

“We’re not even asking for a pay rise,” says Dr Mike Greenhalgh. “We just want them to reverse our pay cut, that’s all. Unfortunately, without meaningful discussion with the government, I think we are heading for strikes.

The doctors’ BMA union has spent months trying to persuade ministers to start talks over pay. Just days before the strike was due to start, health secretary Steve Barclay finally agreed to negotiate. But the government’s move was a trick. It soon became clear that the Tories were unprepared to offer junior doctors more money.

As talks ended last Friday, the union accused the health secretary of delaying tactics and said this Monday’s strike would go ahead. Following the collapse of the talks, Dr Robert Laurenson, co-chair of the BMA’s junior doctors committee, said, “We came here with a mandate, and Steve Barclay turned up without one. There was never any real prospect of any real negotiation or offer—it was just a facade.”

The failure of the doctors’ pay talks should be a warning to all other unions being lured into the health secretary’s office. The Tories’ move is designed to take the momentum out of the strikes and make them less effective. The best alternative is to announce more hard-hitting, united action across the NHS and with others—and to refuse more talks until a sensible offer is on the table.

Original post


We’d love to keep you updated with the latest news 😎

We don’t spam!

Leave a Reply

We use cookies

Cookies help us deliver the best experience on our website. By using our website, you agree to the use of cookies.

Thank you for your Subscription

Subscribe to our Newsletter