So I joined the picket line demo.
There were about 100 of us.
Mostly older, but a smattering of younger people.
We had all gone in our cars.
It was all a bit jolly for me. Everybody huddled together so the newspaper reporter could take a photo – and smiled and waved their flags.
There was even a little chanting!
‘What do we want?’ ‘Fair pensions.’ ‘When do we want them?’… but I was the only person who said ‘at age 65’.
At the end of each bout of chanting, there was a kerfuffle of giggling and chatting, because everybody, actually, was a tad embarrassed.
These were not experienced seasoned, militants.
Next to me, an older man – an area Union organiser – explained to two younger teachers what ‘working to contract’ comprised. They generally agreed that it was impossible in a school where there was not a united intent amonst the staff. One of them worked in an Academy; she let her flag cover her face in the photographs.
The pickets offered a leaflet to all those people going into work, but it was all very polite and ‘Hello Pat!’ Meanwhile, on my teachers’ forum, we were hearing about teachers who had gone into work ‘because they had too much work not to’, or ‘because they could not afford to lose a days pay’. Funny how the words ‘blackleg’ and ‘scab’ have almost left our vocabulary.
Funny how so many workers nowadays utterly fail to appreciate the importance of the word: ‘Union’.
An Anger-free Action
The last thing I want to do is to undermine these good people, or those millions of people who have given up a day’s pay to support the action.
But I was left wondering where the anger was.
People who become incandescent with rage when someone steals a Christmas decoration from their garden have not yet fully appreciated that the government is planning to take thousands of pounds from them – much of it when they will be too old to work to replace that lost income.
And I was left with the feeling that it is too soon for real anger yet.
Those of us who remember the 1980s will remember what it was like after ten years of Tory cuts, when it wasn’t merely a case of ‘making financial adjustments’ but really was a case of ‘cannot afford’ – when it wasn’t a case of ‘making these shoes last’, but of shoes which had a hole in them and you had no money to buy another pair.
The Times headline today was ‘Osborne Strikes First’ and – having read his Autumn Statement yesterday – it strikes me that he has done much more damage to these good-willed, genial people than their strike could ever do to him.
Give it time, and the anger will be there.