Since the beginning of the pandemic governments of the world have had a simple choices, keep people safe or continue the cycle of capital accumulation disregarding the safety of workers for the sake of bosses’ profits.
The UK, like most countries, chose the latter. As a result, countless families have lost loved ones, while frontline workers, receiving nothing but claps and platitudes, continue to risk their lives at work.
One of these frontline industries is the education sector where the government continues to disregard the voices of workers and generate utter chaos in our education establishments by producing vague, lazily-worded policy, that has been communicated in a poor, and time-insensitive manner. As such, it is teachers, students, and parents who have had to bear the cost of the governments incompetence, who have not once shied from using children as economic cannon fodder.
The latest of these vague policies has concerned the reopening of schools after the winter breaks. Schools were expected to operate simultaneously as educational centres and COVID testing centres. Absent any guidance, teaching staff were left to plan several contingencies over the winter break on how to transform schools into safe testing centres – a job well beyond their job description.
The confusion continued after mixed information was received on the complete or partial closure of schools. Teachers were left with no time to prepare online or blended teaching resources. In the context of the pandemic, this confusion is not only adding pressure and stress on staff but has the potential to cost more lives.
The IWW is absolutely committed to ensuring the basic safety of workers, it is for this reason that we are supporting the recent motion passed by the National Education Union (NEU) to protect teachers where the government has refused to do so.
We recommend Fellow Workers who are teachers, and dual card with the NEU, to exercise their contractual right to refuse unsafe working conditions by sending this letter to your Headteachers, many of whom are sympathetic.
We encourage our other members who have concerns working in the education industry to get in touch with education [at] iww [dot] org for further advice
Finally, we would like to highlight the uncountable number of lives that could have been saved had the government listened to the advice of workers in all industries. However, we understand that the role of the state, as the guardian of capital, will always be at odds with the needs and safety of workers. It is only through building worker’s power in the workplace that we can force concession from any government in favour for the health of workers everywhere.
Dr William Sharkey
Secretary for WISE-RA and Fellow Teacher