UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Quality education is not possible on the back of an exploited workforce

#PSICongress2012 Jane Carolan, UNISON NEC, intervened in a debate on union organisation in the education sector (particularly the non-teacher workforce) and called on PSI to build capacity, skills, bargain locally and internationally (taking on the multi-nationals). Also to facilitate networking by members in education and build solidarity with teaching unions by exposing the myth that quality education is possible on the back of an exploited workforce:

'As trade unionists and members of PSI, the public services international, we not only defend the interests of our members as workers but defend public services as the guarantor or our rights as citizens.

Rights like the right to clean water and sanitation. Rights to health and the public services that protect our health. And our right to education- a right that is vita to our young people to enable them to have literacy and numeracy.

To participate in democracy. To learn the skills and socialisation to take their place in the world.

No one doubts that to provide a decent education you need good teachers. But teachers are only part of the equation. You can’t education a child if someone has not made sure that they have a safe and secure environment within a school. A safe journey to school. You can’t educate a child who is hungry. You can’t educate a child if the school has no furniture or IT equipment or books or paper.

That’s the jobs that our members do.

They are the cleaners and janitors. They are the canteen cooks and servers and they are the grounds staff. They keep the play ground safe. They are the administrators and the finance staff.

And they are in the classroom. The nursery worker, the laboratory technician. The classroom assistant the IT worker. They provide the specialist services like literacy help, or psychological services or school health services.

In UNISON we like to refer to the education team. Teachers teach but they are only part of the team providing education services.

Now, in the name of innovation, Governments around the world are being persuaded that they need to set education free. It has taken different names in different countries- charter Schools – academies – free schools.

They are free in the sense that they are no longer part of a national system and free from being accountable to the communities that they should be part of.

They are free to break from nationally negotiated and agreed terms and conditions and free to drive down pay to poverty levels often little above minimum wage rates. They are free to take public money and free to contract to the private sector. They are free to neglect training and to offer insecure or precarious contracts.

As trade unionists we need to prevent the worst excesses or profiteering , marketisation and fragmentation.

In the long term we need to restore education as a public service provided by democratically accountable public services .

But this resolution commits PSI to being part of the ongoing struggle that is happening now.

We need to do what trade unions do best.

The education team needs to be organised by our trade unions, to bargain collectively both on their terms and conditions and on their pay. We need to act locally where schools opt to deal with staff on their own isolating them but also where necessary across national boundaries where multi national companies move in to take over these services and exploit the workforce. We need the research to know who these companies are and the profits that they take from our education systems

We need to facilitate networking and communication across the education team workforce and where necessary across our own union boundaries.

We need to work with the other trade unions that also organise within schools= the teaching unions to build solidarity

And we need to work within our communities locally, to engage with parents with locally elected politicians and others with an interest in education to build support for our vision and to expose that quality education is impossible on the backs of an exploited workforce.

Please support this programme.'