Teachers in the UK continue protests demanding pay rises and more resources

Teachers are also outraged by the contemptuous remarks made by former Education Secretary Gavin Williamson and former Health Secretary Matt Hancock whose WhatsApp chats from 2020 were leaked recently

March 04, 2023 by Peoples Dispatch
Teachers protest in Cardiff. Photo: National Education Union

On Thursday, March 2, teachers affiliated with the National Education Union (NEU) went on strike in schools in England’s South East, South West, and London regions, as well as in Wales, demanding an increase in wages on par with inflation, and more staff and funds for schools. Under the banner ‘Save our Schools,’ teachers also took to the streets on Thursday in several cities across the country. Earlier, on March 1 and February 28, teachers from the other parts of England had also gone on strike.

In their demonstrations, the teachers denounced the apathy of the Tory government towards the needs of the crisis-struck British workers. The protesting teachers also denounced the contemptuous remarks made about them by former education secretary Gavin Williamson and former health secretary Matt Hancock in their WhatsApp chats from 2020, which were leaked recently.

Workers across the UK, including teachers, have been staging waves of protests, demanding an adequate increase in their wages to cope with soaring inflation. Rather than engaging with the protesting workers, the Tory government has resorted to the implementation of regressive anti-labor measures including the anti-strike bill and the Scabs’ charter.

According to the NEU, “the pay offer of 5% increase from the government for most teachers in September 2022 was well below the soaring level of inflation—so this was a real terms pay cut of over 7% in 2022 alone to add to the already major real terms pay cuts between 2010 and 2021. To add insult to injury the pay offer is not fully funded. Teachers have lost 23% in real terms against Retail Price Index inflation since 2010 and educators are leaving the profession in their droves.”

At the same time, teachers’ unions in Scotland, including the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT), the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), and others have warned that more protests and strikes will take place if the long-running pay dispute in the region is not resolved. Teachers have already gone on strikes several times since mid-January this year. The EIS has already given a call for a new round of rolling strikes between March 13 and April 21.

Teachers’ unions have also lashed out at the contemptuous remarks regarding teachers made by former education secretary Gavin Williamson and former health secretary Matt Hancock during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. In their WhatsApp conversation, Hancock and Williamson have described teachers’ unions as a “bunch of absolute arses,” and said that “they really, really do just hate work” and were looking for “an excuse to avoid having to teach.”

National Education Union (NEU) joint general secretary Dr Mary Bousted said there was never a time when teachers were not working during the pandemic: “The education secretary was clearly out of his depth and, we now hear, contemptuous of unions and teachers.”

“Given the current dispute with the Department for Education over teacher pay, we sincerely hope (current Education Secretary) Gillian Keegan does not share this attitude and gets around the table to discuss a resolution to the pay dispute,” she added.