More than one way to stick up for ourselves

13th May 2011 at 01:00

Francis Gilbert is right that "the unions must win the argument" and that "victory can be achieved if teachers are seen to have the pupils' best interests at heart" ("The unions' cause is just, but I'm ambivalent about striking", 6 May). However, teachers will not achieve that by striking. Mr Gilbert has to "delve into (ancient) history" to try to find justification for strike action to counter his own ambivalence.

Striking is a negative force that damages education and the public perception of teachers as professionals. It also sends the wrong message to students, setting an example of trying to achieve demands by force rather than negotiation.

Although those who strike sometimes use pupils' education as a reason for action, the prime reason is to protect pay and conditions. Should teaching professionals put their own interests ahead of the interests, well-being and safety of those they have a responsibility and vocation to teach? If the action is about pupils' education, why take action that disrupts it and causes an "absolute nightmare" for parents?

In the modern world, public-sector strikes do not achieve anything and are counter-productive. Employers do not award pay increases, reverse cuts or abandon plans to become academies because of them.

The long period of "peace" since the last national education strikes shows that much has been and can be achieved without the use of such action. As demonstrated by the positive achievements of the workforce agreement, the best possible outcomes are achieved by dialogue and negotiation, not conflict. We can only "win the argument" - which is a strong argument - on pensions at the negotiating table, not on the picket line.

Philip Parkin, General secretary, Voice: the union for education professionals.

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