Tuesday 27 March 2012

March 28 - London shows the way


Every striking London teacher and lecturer should be proud of the stand they are taking on March 28. 

After the massive show of trade union strength and unity on November 30, this Government could not have believed its luck when, just a few weeks later, the leaders of unions like ATL and UNISON retreated and accepted the unacceptable terms of the ‘Heads of Agreement’ pensions offer.

Weakness has only invited further attacks. While giving even more handouts to the wealthy top 1%, Osborne announced in the Budget that pension ages will be rising even faster. A teacher in their 30s would not now have to work until 68 to get their full pension - but 70!

This fight isn’t only about pensions. The Coalition want to defeat education unions so that they can drive ahead with their plans to cut pay and jobs, use the threat of fast-track sackings to increase workload even more, and to turn yet more schools into Academies.

This government of millionaires is just doing what their backers have asked of them - to bailout big business after the financial mess they created at our expense. Making us pay more for pensions - while employers pay less - also helps the profiteers taking over our services. 

Faced with these attacks, union leaders can’t afford to hesitate. Unions need to be fighting just as hard for their members, and for the millions that rely on schools and services, as the ConDems are for the millionaires.

While others ran for cover, unions like the NUT, UCU and PCS stood firm and regrouped, preparing their members for further national action on March 28. But even the NUT leadership hesitated at the last - and opted for a strike only across the London Region.

Londoners have risen to the challenge and will show that teachers are ready to carry on the struggle. We know that we can’t afford to work on until 70 nor pay 50% more in contributions when many are already struggling with debts and the rising cost of living. In London, and nationally, we’ve no choice but to fight on.

March 28 must be the start of the next phase of the campaign, not the end. But isolated regional action can’t put the Government under pressure in the same way that united national strike action can.

It was the firm national action in June and November that forced Ministers to yield the concessions that we have won so far. Now London has shown the way, we must call on our unions to organise national action again.

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