Strike action is often seen as a highly political act with partisan views differing on the necessity and impacts of strikes. With an increase in inflation, wage stagnation, and a huge strain on public services, many sectors across the country have felt the hit which has then been passed on to individual workers.
We have all seen the unignorable rise in teacher strikes over the past year, many teachers have had enough of working long hours, endless marking, and a never-ending stream of tasks that requires being held responsible for children’s behaviour and progress in the classroom. They are expected to also maintain high standards of teaching all for pay that is not just stagnant but that has actually fallen in real terms.
Across the board the two mainstream parties hold conflicting views on strike action. Labour is the Party which holds fast to trade unionism, which serves as a cornerstone of its policy and direction. Alternatively, you often hear a Conservative politician presenting the argument that strikes are often disruptive and may hinder the education of young children. With two opposing viewpoints on strikes, and teacher strikes in particular, which one does a Christian perspective take?
As of this week the walkouts by teachers will be the sixth and seventh national strike days by members of the National Education Union (NEU) impacting children across the country. As Christians we must look at both sides of the story, on one hand we need to assess the reasons that the strikes are going ahead but also consider the impacts it will have on pupils and students.
Teachers’ salaries in England fell by 11% between 2010 and 2022 according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies. Many of us will have friends or family or people we may know that are teachers and when we hear the stories of just how much they have to balance, we understand that they are simply not paid enough.
Many teachers spend countless hours of their free time marking or staying late to plan lessons and go out of their way to ensure the progress of their individual pupils. The extent of the pressure teachers are under is significantly underestimated in this country, with one in three teachers planning to quit their jobs in the next five years.
As Christians we are taught to have compassion, 1 Peter teaches us to “love one another and be compassionate”. When we see the disruption and the huge inconvenience strikes cause to parents with kids who need to go to work, we must remember to not create an ‘us versus them’ narrative.
Instead, whether we politically support strikes or not, we must remember the struggle caused to both the protestors and those impacted by the protests. When it is so easy to fall into partisan ways about the impacts that strikes can bring to different groups in society Christians must look to pray for all who will be affected and to pray for the root issues of the strikes to be dealt with not by human beings but with God as the overseer of all things.