Industrial etiquette

Here’s a confession: I don’t really know what to do in a strike. When my children’s teachers walked out earlier this year, their classes closed, so I kept them at home and told the teachers I backed them. Easy. But this Wednesday, the school stayed open, so I took them in, and then worried all day that I’d accidentally gone against my principles.

As I watched the rally passed through the centre of Bath on Wednesday, the faces of passers-by said that this was all new on most of them too. There were supportive beeps and friendly waves from the trapped cars around Queen Anne’s Square, but I saw some people refuse leaflets with a looks of stumped embarrassment – is this to do with me? is there a way to make sure it isn’t? – and one frustrated shopper gather up her bags and plunge through the march like a furious bull, White Company carrier forward in place of horns.

We’ve had decades of placid, vacuous, atomised “aspiration” to help erase the idea of  protest. Politics has insisted that all any of us want it to do a little better: get our kids into the good school, flog our house on a profit, get an appointment at the hospital doing well in the league tables. This protest was about something else – not the politics of envy but the politics of solidarity, flags waving against the pale stone of the millionaires’ homes in objection to economic decisions that are taking the most from the worst off.

What do I do in a strike? I support it, and am grateful to everyone who walked out on Wednesday.

Text and photograph © Sarah Ditum, 2011

2 thoughts on “Industrial etiquette

  1. Thank you. For the teachers and head teachers and those on good or reasonable pay the strike may seem about greed or selfishness, but the terms are just horriffic for everyone. This ‘plan’ would leave people aged 70 trying to play on the floor with nursery children, possitioning profoundly disabled adults and trying to physically subdue 18 year olds with server ASD. It would leave the lowest paid in society paying nearly a quater of their monthly wadge into a pension when many of them will die within 24 months of retirment. We will see, on average less than half of what we pay in back in our pensions. At the moment we would better off putting the cash under a mattress, except we wouldn’t do that because what we pay now provides the pensions for those currently retired. And the real kick in the guts came when our government claimed to be negotiating, when in the same breath they announced their descision. The unions have made it clear they will make some consessions, although since the NHS and civil servents pensions have been in credit for years it simple emphasises that this is a tax with nothing to do with our pensions at all. This is already causing people to leave the public sector and affecting the quality of professionals wishing to join. Our public services are being stripped and assulted. And we thank all who supported us

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