I struggle to think of  a more noble profession than teaching (concerns around the feminisation of the profession, particularly at primary level, and the unhealthy institutional left wing bias aside). As important as the education of the next generation is, teachers do not have a monopoly on worthwhile professions.

What about those of us who work in the charity sector? I can’t imagine that many Macmillan or Cancer Research staff have had huge pay rises in recent years. If we want a decent pension we know we have to sacrifice some of our salary now. Indeed, in keeping with economic reality, many charity workers have faced job losses and have been doing the work of two or three as the decision is made not to replace those who have left. There have been reduced hours and pay cuts (yes, I know the lack of a decent pay rise for teachers is the equivalent of a pay cut with inflation, but I’m talking about actual pay cuts). Yet those charity workers are taxed to pay the salaries and pensions of teachers.

Should those charity workers, or anyone else in the private sector, blackmail their employer and their customers until they get a pay rise? What would be the result if they tried it? Teachers are not badly paid, and get better pensions than most of us. They have been better shielded from the financial storm of recent years than most, yet they still want more. A recognition of financial reality would not go amiss.

To add insult to injury, our hard done by charity worker, along with millions of other parents, face losing a day’s income or having to find the money for extra childcare. Not to mention the day’s education that their children are missing.

What do teachers expect? That the rest of us, hit equally hard by the recession if not more so, should pay more tax to give them a pay rise and a more generous pension than we can ever hope to get? Or should a government that is already borrowing £5,000 every second borrow still more to fund their pay rise and pensions? We are already spending more in debt interest alone than we do on the army, navy and air force. Seems perverse to me that teachers, of all people, should be asking for our children to be saddled with more debt.

Teachers seem to forget that they have had a pay rise in recent years. Along with everyone else they now take home around £600 more a year than they did under the last Labour government, thanks to the raising of the tax threshold. Not life changing, but every little helps. And UKIP would go further, taking everyone on minimum wage out of income tax altogether.

Perhaps I’m being overly harsh on our teachers. As I understand it, less than a quarter of NUT members actually voted in favour of this strike, and that was two years ago. If so, then teachers should have a word with their union. Teachers presumably don’t pay their union subs to have their profession’s reputation tarnished.

Which brings us on to Labour. What exactly is the point of the Labour party? It’s understandable that they won’t come out and oppose the strikes, £23million from the unions will buy that kind of silence. Why then are they not taking to the airwaves to make a positive case for why teachers and other public sector workers deserve a pay rise? I would certainly be receptive and indeed sympathetic to a well argued case for paying teachers more. Sadly Labour seem completely paralysed, as they are on so many issues. They make a lot of noise, but don’t seem to actually oppose anything, much less come up with a positive alternative. UKIP really are the only opposition in this country.

On the eve of the strikes, Labour were hosting their gala dinner for rich supporters in London. Tickets ranged from £100 to £15,000, and if you have sufficient cash on the hip you could bid for the chance to play football in a five-a-side team with Ed Balls. That sound you can hear is the Labour party’s founders spinning in their graves.

Other public sector workers are striking too, but it’s difficult to get animated about whether interim diversity professionals, environmental sustainability service managers or transformation heads are actually at their desks or in their gardens. Perhaps teachers could be better paid if less of our taxes were spent on such ridiculous non-jobs (those three examples are all ‘real’ jobs, advertised in the teeth of the recession, combined salary of £200,000).

With apologies to my teacher friends, I’m afraid I don’t have much sympathy for the strike. I suspect I am not alone.

Photo by Bunches and Bits {Karina}

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