“We are saying enough is enough to the critical underfunding of our education system to the point that 90 percent of schools will face a real-terms cut to their budget next year.”
Striking teacher and NEU activist Logan Williams spoke at the Building The Fightback rally in support of the mass wave of strikes on February 1st. Read a published version of his speech below:
Today (February 1st) we have been part of the history of the British Labour movement. We have seen the largest coordinated day of action across our movement for decades and have seen union after union beat the restrictive thresholds put in place by the Tory 2016 trade union act.
My union; the National Education Union, saw 90 per cent of our teaching members in England voting for action on a 53 per cent turnout which was the single largest vote for strike action since the legislation was introduced. This vote was against a pay offer which failed to amend the decade long under-funding of the education sector which has seen teacher pay losing over 20% since 2010.
This pay offer in the words of OFSTED can only be judged as “requires improvement”.
We delivered this mammoth victory due to the efforts of our Workplace reps, local branch officers, and activists who have worked incredibly hard not just over the past 14 months, but as a product of around a decade of work, to build our union from the classroom up through phone banking, mass meetings and, most importantly, workplace conversations taking place across 24,000 individual workplaces.
These efforts have galvanised and grown our membership: by 38,000 members at the last official count, into action with thousands taking to the streets in marches, pickets and rallies across Britain from Cornwall all the way to Newcastle and, all the way across to Norfolk and Kent. In my own local area we had the biggest teaching union demonstration since the 1980s with each of our members standing up and saying enough is enough.
We are saying enough is enough to the critical underfunding of our education system to the point that 90 percent of schools will face a real-terms cut to their budget next year and will see per pupil funding suffer a real-terms cut of £147.
We are saying “enough is enough” to a below inflation pay rise which will see schools have to pay the 5% increase from budgets which are already stretched to breaking point.
We are saying “enough is enough” to the underfunding of education that has seen a third of all teachers who have qualified in the last decade quit for jobs elsewhere.
We are saying enough is enough to a system where 1 in 8 maths lessons are taught by a teacher not qualified in the subject.
It is vital that our members across the NEU receive strong solidarity from both the political and industrial wings of the Labour movement to ensure Westminster delivers the fully funded inflation plus pay increase we desperately need to begin to save our schools, as lets face it comrades we know the money is there to ensure our education system is fully funded.
We know that the big six energy companies are on course to make £170 billion “excess” profits in the next two year and that the four biggest banks are set to make £33 billion profit this year alone- yet the government is cutting not raising taxes on the banks.
So I ask you to make sure you support our picket lines up and down the country just as we have supported yours and ensure we are standing shoulder to shoulder to demand a new deal for working people.
- Logan Williams is a striking teacher, an NEU activist and an organiser for Arise Festival. You can follow him on twitter here.
- “Building the Fightback in 2023″ took place on February 1st, 2023 and was hosted by Arise: A Festival of Left Ideas. You can watch the rally in full here.
- You can follow Arise Festival on Facebook and twitter, and see what events they have coming up here; as well as listen to the Arise Festival podcast on Spotify.