Everybody out! The Honorable and Ancient Company of Pedagogues has voted overwhelmingly for strike action at Eton, Winchester, Westminster, St Paul's, and scores of other toff schools.
On a day when a third of our state schools will be closed because of the NUT's strike, we've been trying to imagine under what circumstances teachers at our independent schools would take similar action. We can't think of any. Maybe that's because they have too much concern for their pupils - especially just ahead of key exams. Or maybe it's because everybody understands it would infuriate the customers and their schools might suffer the commercial consequences.
But in our nationalised, unionised, single employer, one-size-fits-all, socialist child conditioning plants, there are no such restraints.
We really are back to the seventies:
- our politicos have maxxed the credit card - again
- the public sector has had seven years of plenty, and is now facing seven (or more) years of lean - again
- we're in the nightmare phase of a boom-bust pay cycle - again
- the commissars have resorted to a Stalinist anti-market incomes policy - again
- public sector unions are whacking the public - again
Back in the seventies, Mrs T was a teacher. She was also a member of the NUT because all new teachers were strongly encouraged to join a union "just in case you need legal support" (er, like your employer doesn't automatically give you professional liability insurance?).
One day, the NUT called a strike. Mrs T hadn't voted for it, and had no wish to participate. So she went to see the wise old Deputy Head and told him. "Ah," he said, "I understand your concern. But the school will be closed, so there's no point in coming in - there won't be any kids to teach. It might be tricky for the school."
Thus Mrs T became a "striker". Just like many other teachers today, she'd been locked out by a gutless employer taking the line of least resistance: apparently, only about one-quarter of NUT members have actually voted for this strike.
Strikes like this are a relic of a bygone age. As we've blogged many times, it's only in the public sector that unions still have the power to disrupt our lives like this (eg see here). The following chart shows how public sector union density is still 58.8%, compared to only 16.6% in the private sector- so more than three times as high (apologies for chart illegibility- it's down to BERR):
But the real irony is that most of the employees would also benefit. Not every state school teacher (average salary £34,000 pa) could expect to get rewarded like an Eton master, but the good ones would certainly step up.
PS Back in the seventies, strikes used to take place in winter, as in that discontent thing: everybody's so much more miserable in winter so it has more impact. Yet now, these guys striking in spring. Why is that? Surely not another sign of global warming.