Brighton and Hove Unison members have been involved in supporting three strikes in the last week. But we won’t be balloting for strike action ourselves this year.
Last Tuesday saw two strikes, by doctors and railway workers – patient and passenger safety being central to both disputes. Branch members joined hundreds of Unison Health Conference delegates to march with the doctors to their picket line at the Sussex County, where they were addressed by Unison general Secretary Dave Prentis as well as strikers from the British Medical Association.
Some branch members, as parents, also took part in the country’s first strike of school students against SATS tests. Thousands of parents too their primary school children out of school for the day, despite threats of fines, to protest against new testing regimes which parents say causes unnecessary stress to children. Teaching unions have also criticised the “exam factory approach” and have expressed fears that test results will lead to forced academies.
Brighton & Hove Unison will be releasing a statement on the school strike. Our members are not just parents with stressed out children, but work in schools as teaching assistants, admin workers and other vital roles. Teaching assistants have also been affected by the SATS as many lessons requiring small group work such as swimming have been cancelled so that teaching assistants can help out with the SATS.
Perhaps its not surprising that “A new UNISON survey has revealed that more than half (52%) of school support staff in the UK have experienced stress, anxiety or depression.” The survey revealed that “two-fifths of those …… had difficulty completing their work, and more than one in eight said they found it impossible to manage all that was being asked of them.” Little wonder that “almost half of support staff (47%) said they are considering leaving their jobs thanks to low pay, stress and huge workloads.”
As for our own pay dispute, many branch members will have been disappointed not to have been able to join with other trade unions resisting this government. However, we can be certain that the governments drive to pay us pay for their crisis is far from over. We will continue to strengthen union organisation locally, and our links to other union branches, in preparation for what is yet to come.