A UNION chief has described strike action as “one of the hardest decisions” to make.
Gill Collins, Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) branch secretary for Kirklees, says it is only the second time its members will take strike action in its 127 year history.
Ahead of the national walkout on Wednesday, Gill highlighted the reasons teachers, lecturers, school and college leaders, non-academic and support staff in Kirklees will walk out of schools on Wednesday.
She said: “Deciding to go on strike was one of the hardest decisions we have had to make.
“We are not a militant union and this is the first issue that has led us to call a national strike in 127 years.
“We care passionately about the education of our students, and don’t want to do anything which disrupts that, but if we can’t get the coalition government to see sense children’s education will suffer for decades to come.
“Older staff will retire early, schools will find it even harder to recruit heads, young teachers with families won’t be able to afford to stay in the pension scheme, and the best graduates will choose a more lucrative career.”
ATL, Unison, the National Union of Teachers (NUT), the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) and the University and College Union (UCU) members will all strike over the coalition government’s attack on pensions.
Gill explained: “We are not asking for special favours, we just want to be treated fairly. We have all paid into our pensions throughout our careers and now the government is trying to claw that money back.
“The coalition government’s stories that education staff retire on £25,000 pensions are myths – the average teacher’s pension is £10,000 a year and the average pension in the local government scheme is £4,200 a year.
“We don’t want to be a drain on society, but if our pensions fall we will need state benefits to make ends meet when we retire.
“We know only too well that the economy is in a mess. We are in a two-year pay freeze now and thousands of education staff are losing their jobs. The change from Retail Price Index to Consumer Price Index has already cut the value of our pensions by an average of 15% over our retirement.”
She said the unions have negotiated for nine months with the Government but said that “until this month it was not prepared to listen”.
“The reality is that the Government sees education staff, and other public sector workers, as easier targets than the City and financial sector to raid to reduce Government debt,” she added.
“It’s not fair, it’s not right and unless we stand up to government bullying now young people will suffer.”
KIRKLEES Council’s website is updating its list of school closures as decisions are made.
So far closures include:
Birkenshaw Middle School, Crosland Moor Junior School, Crow Lane Primary and Foundation Stage School, Dalton School, Earlsheaton Infant School, Hillside Primary School, Howard Park Community School, Kirkburton Middle School, Lindley CE (VA) Infant School, Littletown J I and N School, Lydgate J and I School, Manorfield I and N School, Moorlands Primary School, Newsome Junior School.
Overthorpe CE (VC) J I and N School, Pentland I and N School, St Peter's CE (VA) Junior, Infant and Early Years School, St John's CE (VC) Infant School (Dewsbury), Staincliffe CE (VC) Junior School, Thornhill Lees CE (VC) I and N School, Westmoor Junior School, Whitcliffe Mount - Specialist Business and Enterprise College, Whitechapel CE Primary.
Shelley College will be partially closed – Year 11 students who are taking trial examinations must attend. School is closed for Years 9 and 10 unless they have been specifically asked to come in for intervention/catch-up work. Sixth form students are welcome in school to use the study facilities for self study.
St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School (Huddersfield) is partially closed – classes open are Mrs Hirst’s, Mr McDermott and Mrs Jackson (morning only).