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UK: Education unions march against austerity

published 21 October 2014 updated 24 October 2014

Around 90,000 trade unionists – including members from Education International’s UK affiliates – took to the streets of London last weekend to march against austerity measures.

On 18 Oct., Members from the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) and the National Union of Teachers (NUT) joined the protest, which was organised by the Trades Union Congress (TUC), the national trade union centre in the UK.

The march, under the banner ‘Britain Needs a Pay Rise’, saw teachers and their friends and families join with other workers and their families to highlight their anger and concern. Their message was aimed at politicians and the public to raise awareness about economic and social policies which have seen wages slashed in real terms and a huge increase in poverty, homelessness, and deprivation.

The march from Central London culminated in a rally at Hyde Park, where speakers included Christine Blower, NUT General Secretary and President of EI’s European region, the European Trade Union Committee for Education.

NUT: No hungry child in school

“Teachers are seeing growing numbers of children attending school hungry which affects their ability to learn,” Blower told the crowd. “Food banks are no substitute for an adequate family income and children are entitled to know that their parents can afford to feed, clothe, and keep them warm.”

Thousands of copies of the NUT’s Stand Up for Education manifesto were distributed to the public at the rally.

NASUWT: Recruitment and retention crisis

NASUWT also supported the campaign. “Teachers, like other ordinary workers, are angry and frustrated after four years of pay cuts,” NASUWT General Secretary Chris Keates said. “Recent independent reports have shown that over 50 per cent of teachers have had to cut expenditure on essential items such as food and over 30 per cent are living on credit and loans.”

Young teachers, in particular, are struggling as, on top of pay cuts and increased pension contributions, they also have to pay back student loans, she noted. Cuts in pay are contributing to a growing teacher recruitment and retention crisis, she said.

In addition, teachers are concerned about the appalling impact of economic and social policies on the children and young people they teach. Poverty and homelessness have a direct impact on educational achievement, Keates said.

EI: No one can teach on an empty stomach

EI firmly supports its UK affiliates’ struggle to ensure quality education in their country. “We urge public authorities to ensure decent working and living conditions for teachers and theirs students,” said EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen. “No one can teach or learn properly if they’re too busy making ends meet, with an empty stomach, or feeling cold.”