It was billed as the “biggest strike for over 30 years” with schools, colleges, universities, hospitals, courts, transport, immigration and government all hit by a walkout involving up to two million workers.

I’m old enough to remember the ‘Winter of Discontent’ and the strikes of the 80s and I am struggling to recall what industrial action has actually achieved. Even the Jarrow March in 1936 failed to achieve anything, other than notoriety.

When the Jarrow crusaders finished their march, very little was done for them. The ship industries stayed closed and the marchers were given £1 each to get the train back home, from London.

As I watched the march, the big screen on Embankment, the rousing music, the passionate (and not so passionate) speakers, placards donning ‘iron fist’ emblems, the anarchists that aren’t there to support anyone, copies of Socialist Worker strewn across the road, I felt depressed.

It felt like 1984; George Orwell’s 1984 and of course the 1984/85 national miners’ strike.
Thirty years ago the teachers disrupted my secondary education; the miners disrupted my community and health professionals affected waiting lists, which disrupted my father’s care when he had his first heart attack.

Strikes have rules, ballots, negotiations and majorities, but the rules seem to bend at will”

Strikes do not sit well with me.

Public sector workers believe their actions are valid (even when they’ve walked out on students to celebrate “today’s success with Cuban rum and UCU comrades in the Casa Bar” as @UCUFENorthWest tweeted).

They are protesting over reforms that unions say will force them to work for longer before they can retire, and pay more for pensions, which will be worth less. They expect that pay freezes and capped wages are going to be very widespread.

According to The Guardian, the government spends more than £26billion a year on public sector pensions and the government says this is not sustainable.

Strikes have rules, ballots, negotiations and majorities, but the rules seem to bend at will.

The government, from what I can see is trying to negotiate, so how can a strike be valid when negotiations are still ongoing? It’s been said before, but let Agitator say it again… striking during negotiation is not playing by the rules, so don’t lecture me on fair play.

This strike, and the others that ensue will cost us dearly. Obviously they will cost us financially, the chancellor said; “The strike is not going to achieve anything. It’s not going to change anything.”

They’ve walked out on students to celebrate ‘today’s success with Cuban rum and UCU comrades in the Casa Bar’”

Strikes do nothing to enhance the reputation of the education sector, even striking lecturers will agree their actions reduce the quality of the student experience, if I were a student, I’d call that stealing.

And, internationally, our reputation is plummeting: why would international students pay thousands to study at a strike-ridden college, or university? It’s rip off Britain all over again.

Private training providers could have the advantage here, where college staff are concerned about the picket line, employers are concerned with their bottom line, and strikes don’t tend to endear customer loyalty.

Employer led? Learner focused? These are just phrases in your prospectus… they don’t mean anything if your college closed.

If I was a private training provider, I’d be selling my training on “uninterrupted service”, a guarantee that colleges, with their unionised staff cannot offer with a straight face.

Although a straight face isn’t something that strikers tend to worry about, they take a day off, screw up your life, and then complain and berate others that are trying to rise to the occasion.

This is the 21st century; our working lives and the demands on our society have changed enormously in the last 30 years. So, why, in this day and age, are the unions using the same methods?

We have moved on and so should they, and preferably without shouting, “Scab” as they do so.

And, anyway, as any hematologist would tell you, scabs save lives!

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  1. I don’t even know where to start…
    Meetings that consist of the government saying “take it or leave it, let’s work out how painful this is going to be” don’t sound like negotiations to me.
    I was on strike on Wednesday (first time in 15 years of working in FE), not because of my own pension rights, which I’ve expected for years to be erroded, but for those of (yes) my comrades who’ve been paying in for 30 odd years and are now getting royally shafted *solely* to plug a gap in the deficit. Public sector pensions ARE affordable as the Hutton Report points out very clearly but this government has an ideological problem with the whole concept of public SERVICE when Francis Maude will get a pension of over £40k a year from the public purse when he retires.
    Also the RISIBLE idea that strikes are easy to organise is almost not worth commenting on. It is INSANELY difficult to go on strike thanks to the anti-union laws introduced in the 80s and then not repealed by the craven Labour party in the 00s.
    We are public servants because we want to serve, to help our communities, not to screw them for every penny we can. To expect our employer to not renege on a deal struck many years ago seems the least we should expect…

    Also I’m happy to put my name to this, because this is a cause I completely agree with…