'Stop with the distractions, stop trying to divide us - look to Wales and to Scotland'
Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), Kevin Courtney, urged the government to ‘stop with the excuses’ in a rousing final speech at a huge strike rally in London today.
On one of the biggest strike days in decades, over 500,000 workers joined picket lines across the country including junior doctors, civil servants, teachers, journalists, Amazon workers, tube workers and university staff.
In response and solidarity with the massive strike action, the NEU led a rally in Trafalgar Square this afternoon, which it’s thought was attended by up to 50,000 people.
Courtney rounded the event off with a powerful speech, where he had three messages to the government, urging them to stop trying to divide unions and listen to their demands, like in Wales and Scotland.
Three messages to the Government
He laid out his three messages for Rishi Sunak and government ministers, highlighting the higher ‘moral purpose’ of the strikes and calling out government excuses.
“Our strike action has a high moral purpose.
“We are striking for the children, a generation hit so hard by Covid, we want the government to invest in them, in their schools, colleges and the people that work in them.
“My second message; stop with the excuses.
“Stop with the distractions, stop with minimum service levels, the attacks on Kevin and Mary, stop trying to divide us – look to Wales and to Scotland.”
His third message has for the government to pay attention to the growing public support for strike action, referencing the latest polling by Parentkind, which has showed support for the teacher strikes has grown, not fallen.
“They have to listen not just because of the moral case, but because of the huge support we have got.
“Because parents know that we are striking for their children, for this generation that deserve the support now.”
‘The government has got to listen to this’
300,000 teachers are on strike in England because of an education in crisis, with teachers working more unpaid overtime than in any other profession.
Courtney referred to three conversations he had that day with NEU members on strike about the situation they found themselves in due to funding cuts.
“A teacher from a primary school in Haringey told me there had been no permanent teachers in some of the classes since Christmas, only TA support and those TAs are underpaid.
“To a deputy head teacher I spoke to, their school has abandoned teaching computer science and dance because they can’t get the teachers. I say the government has got to listen to that.
“To the nursery teacher I spoke to who, not only from her meagre salary is buying pritt sticks and pens, but she’s buying furniture for her classroom. The government has got to listen to that.
“Speaking to a woman who has been teaching for 12 years. She had never been on strike before, never joined a union because she’s a member of the Conservative party. She joined the NEU yesterday to be on this strike.
“The government has got to listen.”
Hannah Davenport is trade union reporter at Left Foot Forward
Left Foot Forward’s trade union reporting is supported by the Barry Amiel and Norman Melburn Trust