For the first time I will be breaking strike today. I will be a scab. This is why. I look forward to any comments.
Last time, as well as striking, I went on the march, like a good little unionist, felt all brave and empowered, came home, and, well, life carried on as normal. All the bad things we were supposed to be protesting against continued to happen. Just like last time I went on strike. And the time before that. And, well you get the idea. Which for me reinforces the idea that strikes, in this day and age, and in the education sector, don’t work.
Who is affected? OK, so college lose some money. But then they gain back a day’s pay for every lecturer who strikes. I suspect it roughly balances out. The government? Not really. Like every government I have ever protested against, they just carry on blithely.
You see, the thing is this. We aren’t, as much as OFSTED, the unions and the government would like us to be, a manufacturing industry. I’m a teacher. I don’t make stuff. Arguably we “make” qualifications, but that’s only a part of what we do. And anyway, if I went on strike and my learners failed their qualifications as a result I would feel personally and professionally terrible. I suspect the workers in the car factory don’t feel the same about the cars they are producing, And in the long term, the failure of my learners is my responsibility, I take the fall if they fail. Not college, at least not directly, and certainly not the government, who have already demonstrated they really don’t care about much except lining the pockets of the wealthy, and bagging the next election, not the careers and lives of young people and adults.
And if I go on strike today, the assessed lesson I am observing (of a non union member who isn’t striking) will have to be rescheduled, and do you know whose headache that is? Oh, yes, mine. Not college. Not the government. Mine. I have to sort it. I can’t just cancel it, I can’t just say “well, college/government you sort it out.” because simply the only sorting out they would do would be, well, to reschedule it. And who would be observing? Oh yes, me.
It’s very sweet of the head of UCU at Sunderland Uni who was quoted as saying “A lot of lecturers, like myself, are going on strike and sacrificing a day of pay to protect the pensions of people in the future.” Bless you, thank you for pretending to give a stuff about me, as a lecturer in my 30s. Very kind of you but also very naive. I calculate that even with a retirement age of 65 (ha ha) I have about 30 years of work left in me. That’s at least 6 changes of government. All with their own agendas, their own axe to grind, and their own “evidence of impact” to create. No government wants to be one which says “actually, it’s not bad, let’s just keep an eye on it”. Improve, change, impact! So my pension? Well, it has to be said, the chances of it being left alone between now and my 65th birthday are pretty minimal. And me going on strike today isn’t going to make the blindest bit of difference to that.
And I have never subscribed to the “union says jump, I say how high” mindset. I don’t do organisational loyalty very well. I am loyal to my employer because they pay me, but if another employer were to offer a better deal there is nothing that would stop me going (as much as I would miss my lovely colleagues). I am loyal to the union because I want a bit of legal muscle just in case, which is what I pay £200 a year for, and because in recent months I have seen positive local impact of some activities by my branch. But that’s not enough for me to go on strike today. And actually, if ideological commitment were that important to the union, then they would threaten to suspend my membership if I didn’t do as I was told, surely. But I bet they won’t. I’m not about to get a letter saying “because you are a selfish person who didn’t support your colleagues, we’re withdrawing our support for you”. Because they need the numbers and they need my £200. Amazing how ideology can get ignored when it suits even a large union…
So I’m sorry to let you down, fellow union members. I fully support your strike action, well done for being more ideologically committed and much much less cynical than me. I’m not saying I’m a better person for going to work today. But I’m not saying I’m a bad person either. Have a good day.