Words, pictures and interviews: Guy Phillips
Strike action affected more than two-thirds of schools in Southampton on 30 June, when teachers from the NUT and the traditionally moderate ATL union joined university lecturers, civil servants and other public sector workers in Guildhall Square for a rally.
Teachers said they were on strike because they are being asked to ‘pay more, work longer, and get less’ and that the teachers’ pension scheme is affordable.
“As far as I’m concerned this is a tax upon teachers of £2.8 billion, to go towards paying off the deficit – which is not our fault at all,” said ATL member Sam Cutler, pictured above (front row centre), with striking colleagues from Sholing Technology College.
He said he hoped the Government would get round the table and negotiate so the dispute doesn’t go in into the autumn term.
We also caught up with Pete Sopowski (right), NUT Secretary for Southampton, who said that teachers were on strike because they don’t believe the Government is serious about negotiating on pensions. He said that teachers are going to be expected to work until they are 68 while paying more in contributions.
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In a letter to local authorities before the day of action, Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove said that he is ‘personally committed to working openly, honestly and constructively to ensure that teachers continue to receive the high quality pensions that they deserve and value’.
“Against this background, the Government’s view is that industrial action, with the attendant risk of disruption to pupils’ education and family life, is not justified.
“In the current situation both the public and parents will expect all of us to put the interests of pupils and families first. We all have a strong moral duty to pupils and parents to keep schools open and the Government wants to help you to fulfill that. I am particularly concerned that school closures would cause great inconvenience to working families and single parents who will have to make ad hoc childcare arrangements and whose own working lives will be disrupted. I am confident that you will take effective steps to support schools in staying open and to minimise the impact on pupils and parents.”
What’s your view on pensions? Is it morally right for teachers to go on strike, and to “inconvenience working families and single parents”? Or is it perhaps one of the few ways they can make their voices heard?