‘But what about the low-paid restaurant staff who miss a day’s work and a day’s pay because of a stoppage called by a handful of transport workers? What about the self-employed builder who has to turn down a week-long job because a strike by teachers means that his kids cannot go to school? What about the single mother who cannot afford to lose a day’s pay by refusing to cross a picket line? Should she be subjected to abuse and harassment simply for going to work?’
, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, House of Commons, on the effects of strike action on other workers, 14 September 2015
But are the effects as negative as Javid’s rhetorical questions would suggest? Recently published research from Oxford University Department for Economics on the 2014 tube strike found one in twenty workers found superior ways of getting to work when forced to make alternative arrangements (summarised here). And the single mother concerned about losing a day’s pay could apply to unions’ hardship funds.
But what about Javid’s builder allegedly turning down a week’s work because strike action stops his children going to school? Teachers’ strikes in England don’t last a week – they normally last a day. And there were only a tiny number of one-day strikes in the last academic year*.
It’s unclear, then, why Javid’s builder should claim teachers’ strike action lost him (or her) a week’s work. A cynic might say one day’s industrial action was an excuse to take one week’s term-time holiday.
But that’s speculation. Just as Javid’s attempt to seize the moral high ground is speculation.
Teachers don’t strike lightly. And there were no teachers’ strikes between the mid-1980s and 2008 when the first teachers’ day of action was described as a mere ‘symbolic action
But according to Javid, this ‘symbolic action’ causes self-employed builders to lose one week’s work. Javid is exaggerating when he claims a one-day strike would result in anyone, self-employed or not, losing a week’s work. And far more harm is being done to children’s education by constant political interference and so-called reforms than by a small number of one-day strikes.
: *I’ve been trying to find the number of national one day teachers’ strikes in 2014/15 but have been unable to do so. Please comment below if you have a link to a reliable source giving this information.
I was involved in the 1980s industrial action. I was concerned my CSE English pupils shouldn’t suffer during my absence so I set them work to do at home. They didn’t do it but that wasn’t because they were striking in solidarity (as they claimed). It was because avoiding work was their default position.