30 November: Why Are They Striking? Teachers Defend Their Day Of Action

Ucu

Huffington Post UK   First Posted: 29/11/11 12:47 Updated: 30/11/11 12:46

As the UK braces itself for one of the biggest mass walkouts of public sector workers in recent history, teachers have come under fire for making the decision to put down their tools and exercise their right to protest.

On Tuesday, education secretary Michael Gove accused unions of "itching for a fight".

"They want mothers to give up a day's work, or pay for expensive childcare, because schools will be closed", he said at think tank Policy Exchange.

But in an interview with the Huffington Post UK, Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) general secretary Sally Hunt defended the right for her members to strike.

And now teaching staff have spoken up to contest the view they are being "selfish" and "individualistic".

Katie is a teacher at a primary school in Berkshire and says for the first time in history, her school will be closed due to teacher strikes.

"Our hands are tied", she told the Huffington Post. "There are a lot of us who don't want to strike, but what choice do we have?"

The 29-year-old, who is also pregnant, will be taking to Reading streets to join the hundreds of other public sector workers on Wednesday.

But one Oxfordshire-based teacher, who wished to remain anonymous, said the majority of staff in her school were not striking.

"We feel the children's education is more important than our pensions", she explained.

However she seems to be in the vast majority as another teacher, Neil, from the West Midlands, has been in the profession for 18 years said it was "time to take a stand".

"In 18 years of teaching I have never been made to feel like a second-class citizen as much as I have in the last 18 months.

First a pay-freeze (a real-terms pay cut) and now an all-out raid on my pension to impose an extra tax on me to pay off the deficit."

Neil, who says he has "never taken strike action before", accused the government of "blindly pursuing its own agenda with no regard to any collateral damage".

"I am afraid to say that this is a government that, should you manage to catch its ear, will listen intently then prove not to have heard a word", it added.

The 42-year-old reiterated the strike on Wednesday is a "last resort".

"Faced with a government which is more concerned with posturing and looking good, rather than actually listening and discussing, it is the only option left, which personally saddens me."

He will be sacrificing not only a day's pay, but also a day of work, which Neil says is a shame as, "unlike most media portrayals of my profession, we [teachers] actually love our jobs".

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