No speed ups No job cuts

Latest for the axe are teachers’ jobs. A limited pay rise will be accompanied by education cuts, forcing job losses and increasing an already high workload. Teaching is already one of the worst professions for stress due to overwork and restructuring. But making fewer workers do more work for less pay is a trend that goes right across the board

THE EUROPEAN Union’s statistical office has published figures showing that working hours are longer in Britain than anywhere else in the EU. Exceptionally high levels of overtime are worked because employers can save money that way.

Rhetoric about reducing unemployment may be electorally useful, but is not profitable when you can squeeze fewer workers dry. All workers are having to work longer hours to complete heavier workloads without extra pay. Fear of unemployment and a union movement in retreat ensures bosses can pile on the workload to breaking point.

A Greenwich social worker said he worked “about fifty hours a week because of the expansion of unpaid work”. But council manual workers are often worse off: “Thanks to job privatisation they have no job security and have suffered pay cuts.”

The Labour council in Greenwich is viewing the prospects of cuts with an appetite. Home Care workers are being forced to sign contracts to work any time between 7am and 11pm, 7 days a week. Falling sick can make you liable to dismissal. Managers have been told they must get the maximum amount of work out of the minimum number of staff. Their promotion prospects depend on it.

Teachers are only the latest to be at the sharp end of council cuts which are destroying services and working conditions.

The education secretary, Gillian Shephard, defended the cuts by saying that there is no research “which shows that marginal increases in class sizes harms standards.” Maybe not, but any teacher who has had to dash from pupil to pupil to try and accommodate their individual and very diverse education needs will tell you that a class of 10 is infinitely preferable to the now common class of 30 or more.

David Blunkett, Labour shadow education secretary, whimpered, “This is a cut too far.” But there has never been a cut which has not been ‘too far’ for workers. Spending cuts implemented by both Labour and Tory councils with zeal are only in the interests of the bosses’ profits, never in the interests of workers who are at the receiving end.

Professor Handy, a business theorist, thinks “the 67 hour week is just around the corner ... The trend among employers is to employ half the people, drive them twice as hard and get three times the productivity. If they burn out, so what?” There are plenty of unemployed to take their place. Twenty-five percent of manual workers are already working more than 48 hours a week.

Workers’ health and social life are increasingly being ignored by bosses obsessed with competitive cost cutting. There is nothing inevitable about the decline in working conditions: as with wages, they are established in the market place in struggle between the classes, but at the moment the bosses are winning.

The recent NUT ballot to drop the boycott of Sats, which will increase teachers’ workload even more, does not bode well for a fightback among teachers now.

But the latest cuts have angered teachers and parents alike. Rank and file teachers who led the campaign against Sats now need to mobilise that anger into a united campaign against education cuts and threats of job losses.