Responses from my post about saying “no” to strike action

This is copied and pasted from the responses I received regarding the reasons I will not give the INTO my mandate for strike action.  There were 3 pages of responses within 2 days, during our holidays.

Wow… didn’t expect so many responses so quickly.  I’d like to respond to them if I may because I think a lot of my points were missed in the mist.

1. Very few of my points save the government any money / how does X save the government any money?
This is true.  This was not my intention.  My intention is not to save the government any money.  My intention is to try and get the INTO to negotiate on my behalf on things that I am happy to let go of.  The public believe that all teachers take 31 uncertified sick days, we all get at least 3 paid days off for doing courses, we do no work once 2:30pm comes, etc.  The only way of stopping this image is to very publicly offer them to the government as we don’t use them.   Furthermore, none (maybe one) of my list will cost me any money or a paycut or a pension cut.

Right now the INTO are point-blank refusing to negotiate with the government.  The government, as awful as they are, have produced the McCarthy report which gives recommendations of cut backs.  Essentially, I picked the ones that are most palatable.  If the INTO were to offer these to the government in return for not cutting wages, pensions, etc. they will have opened up negotiation.  If the government then said: OK, we’ll take these offers then cut your wages on top of this, then it’s the government who are refusing to negotiate.  No one could accuse the teachers or their unions of looking after their own needs and, thus, a strike would be warranted.  And, yes, then I would give the INTO  my mandate.  However, while the union refuse to negotiate with the government, I cannot give them the power to call our only trump card, when there are plenty of ways to avert this.

2. Some of my points are not in the McCarthy report
Sorry, I should have been clearer.  The final few are my own ideas.

3. Voting against strike means we can’t strike
True.  However, I cannot give the union the power to strike unless they attempt to negotiate.

4. We’ve already given enough to the government
We have never negotiated properly with the government.  Now with the McCarthy report, the government have given us a bargaining tool.  Why completely disregard this report when some of the recommendations are fine?  I have given 31% to the government in unpaid benchmarking and cuts.  I’m not happy but I’m less happy that my union refuse to negotiate despite many of their members asking them to do so.

5. You are entitled to canvass for a no vote
This is true but this is my only way of reaching teachers.  I’m only one person who is haphazardly trying to make change.  My outlet is here, on Facebook and on Twitter.  I’m reaching maybe 200 teachers in the whole country on a reasonably anonymous web site.  At the vote, there will be an INTO rep giving “talks” to all teachers recommending them to vote “yes”.  There will be no-one there giving talks on voting the other way as it wouldn’t be allowed.  At INTO meetings, people who spoke about negotiating were sneered at or, worse, not allowed to speak.  This isn’t true democracy.

6. We should strike because the government will only roll over us if we don’t /We have to fight or the gov will run over us every year

We have a total mistrust of the government, which is fair.  However, we also have a union who are not showing any leadership.  If we are shown to have tried something a little bit different, then if the government roll over us, we will have a good reason to strike.  Right now, we don’t.

There seems to be a suspicion that if we negotiate then the government will think of us as lame ducks and cut everything.  There is no proof of this. We are playing into their hands by refusing to accept any cuts.  If we don’t suggest anything, yes, the government will lazily cut our wages.  Striking does not equal fighting back.  We haven’t tried to fight back.  The government are using the media to further their cause and we aren’t.  I truly believe that if we fought back cleverly and go against all the other unions and offer something to the government, we will win a major PR battle and that’s worth a hell of a lot more than people think.

7. Working an extra hour
What teacher doesn’t?

8. There’s plenty of money left in the country
Possibly, but the banks have it now and the government don’t.  The fact is that we don’t have any more money and although it’s completely unfair that we’re being targeted, we’re refusing to co-operate in any way.  Remember, none of my recommendations offer any financial aid to the government but they all raise our profile in the public.  I don’t understand why teachers or the union don’t see the huge importance of this.

9 The threat of strike will give us options / Voting for strike will give a negotiating tool
Not if the only option the union are giving is “we won’t take any further cuts”.  If the union told us of any other options they were going to use with the strike card, I would be happy to give them my mandate.

10 The public sector are losing as many jobs as the private sector
My list doesn’t include any job cuts to teachers only to quangos

11 Why are you looking for public support, we had the public with us when we wanted to keep class sizes small, not lose language support, keep our book grants etc and that didn’t make any difference to what the government did.
We didn’t strike then or even threaten it.  It was only when the government moved from cutting the children’s conditions to cutting our pay that the mention of strike happened.  Again, I was at union meetings around the time of protest when we did have parent and public backing but there was no interest in striking then for the children.  We missed a good opportunity.

12 A strike is really the only way we can forcibly make our point
But only after we try to negotiate

Again I apoloigise for the long post and I know I’ve repeated myself 12 times at least! 🙂  It’s so easy to disregard what’s been written in the papers as “typical teacher-bashing” but why are we being bashed?  Why do people have more sympathy with other public sector workers?  If we’re doing such a great job, why is there so much discontent about us?  People who read newspapers will generally believe what is written.  I don’t believe that newspapers ignore the positives about teaching and the education system.  The newspapers could not ignore it if the teachers refused to give a mandate to their union because they want to negotiate with the government.  Unless the INTO show us that they will negotiate with the government based on the McCarthy report, I believe we are going to not only take more pay cuts, but we will gain nothing from striking and will pave the way for more and more cuts as we will have played our trump card.  What do we threaten after striking?

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