Friday, 2 December 2011

My strike day - what I did and what I think.

On Wednesday I went on strike for the first time in my life. I work as a teaching assistant and I hope to train to be a teacher so the strike struck a chord with me for several reasons.

The government came to an agreement over teachers' pensions some time ago, but now they are trying to increase the amount public sector workers, including teachers, pay into their pensions. They also want us to work until we are 68 and when we do retire we will have less money annually from those pensions.

Well, it seems to me that that is wrong. Its wrong for several reasons:

  • what makes the government think they can forcibly change an agreed contract?
  • Why increase payments when the pension fund is healthy & self-funding?
  • do we really want teachers and other public sector workers working until they are 68 in very physically and mentally exhausting jobs?
  • do we want our children/grandchildren taught by burnt out old wrecks?
Someone close to me said recently that the public sector should not strike because the private sector were suffering more than them and they were unable to strike ...

My answer was that we all should have the right to join a union and demand decent working conditions. The fact that private sector employees are often badly treated should not make us want to back down and lower the common denominator.

Someone else commented that the day's strike would adversely affect the children involved. Well ... they didn't say that about the Royal Wedding did they?

I have colleagues who did not strike and I absolutely support their right to that decision. I, in turn, would not work to rule. Whilst I think that a one day strike might have an impact I am not prepared to work to rule because I think that would actually hurt the children with whom I work. I usually work about 4 hours a week overtime which is unpaid. Without that time a lot of my duties just would not be done.

I appreciate that the strike made life difficult for some parents who had to take time off to care for their children. I am sorry about that.

I appreciate that the strike may have made no difference to the cause. But if you do nothing they will walk all over you. In my view you have to try. There has to be a line drawn in the sand.

I see people in the public sector who, for the most part, do difficult jobs, dirty jobs, jobs that are poorly paid. One of the reasons for ever doing one of these jobs, other than having a vocation, is the pension and if that is taken away ... well, what is the incentive for doing it? 

By making these (in my view) unnecessary changes the government is picking on some of the most poorly paid workers in the country. In my county they have already cut teaching assistants' wages by around 3%. And now they want us to pay more into our pensions, work longer and yet take out less in the end.

Is that right? And is it right that we sit back and say"O.k - go ahead old chap! We're all in this together!" Because we are not all in this together. Can you imagine the bankers who caused this mess agreeing to something like that? I don't think so.

We are not stupid enough to believe that the government will roll over and agree to what we want, but we are not going to go down without a fight. If the strike affected you in a bad way - I am sorry. But it was one day. I chose to go without pay even though I didn't have to. I could have gone into work or rearranged my hours and had a day off and been paid, but I didn't. I chose to strike and lose a day's pay to make a point and to support my colleagues.

At least I had a choice. I am fortunate to be able to choose and I appreciate that some of you had no choice because of the strike. I just think that there are times in life when you need to stand up and be counted and Wednesday was one of those times.


Urban Cynic said...

I actually agree with you despite having no pension and nothing to fall back on when I get older. And I agree for all of the reasons you mentioned.

I heard that these unions haven't been on strike in over 20 years and I don't think they would do so lightly. An argument is that there simply isn't enough money to go around, but if the Government asked all the rich tax dodgers to pay their bills, there would be enough.

It frustrates me that a certain section of the population get off without paying anything, and it's the ones that can least afford it, or least deserve it that end up paying for it.

Strange that Germany are doing so well they can afford to give their citizens a tax rebate. This is because they are a country that can clearly run a piss up in a brewery!

sarah at secret housewife said...

I am glad you agree!! And I love your German piss up analogy! x