So as a big ‘thank you’ for all we’ve done in the pandemic, Rishi Sunak has decided on our reward – a three year pay freeze.

This Government was only ever interested in keeping schools open for their own economic interests, not the children’s. Not content with putting our personal safety at risk and expecting us to work even longer hours than usual, they now want us to foot the bill for their failures too.

The Government can’t pretend that “we’re all in this together” anymore. Contrast the way their corporate friends have been rewarded through billion-pound Covid contracts.

Nor should we accept that, just because private-sector employers are putting the boot into their employees, public-sector workers should share in the misery too. No, instead of a race to the bottom, public sector trade unions should give all workers a lead and demand a fully-funded pay increase for all. We must demand an end to the cuts that are undermining public services and also threatening more job losses too.

But the key question for the NEU and other public sector unions is, how do we answer this attack?

It can’t be fought by just more petitions, or by school by school action. A national strategy is needed, and yes, that means building for collective action. If a clear lead is given, members will respond – but leadership is key.

The National Shop Stewards Network has just put out a call for an immediate Day of Action on 5th December, the first Saturday after ‘lockdown’ is due to end. Local trade union led socially distanced protests should be organised in every town to give an immediate answer to Sunak and the Tories.

The NEU should immediately be getting in touch with the leaders of all the public sector unions to plan a joint campaign of action. That could include nationwide protests and demonstrations in the New Year, building towards the ballots for coordinated strike action that will be needed to defeat this pay robbery.

Martin Powell-Davies

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