Yesterday, in England, there was a teachers' strike. The profession is fighting the government who intend to increase the retirement age of teachers and increase the employee contribution to their pension plan (compared to what most English workers have to put up with it is an excellent pension scheme at present). Today, I read that doctors are planning similar action for similar reasons.

Nobody likes having their standard of living lessened or to be surprised by changes to what they have been promised in the future. As an ordinary human being, with the ordinary human tendency towards self-interest, I sympathise with them. But, as a socialist and Christian, I am incredibly uneasy about all this. You see, in my country, teachers earn a very good wage and doctors earn an obscene amount of money. They are also intelligent and well organised collectively. When they lose a day's pay because they are on strike it must be annoying for them but it doesn't make a huge difference to their lives. On the other hand there are many workers in England, whose standard of living is being reduced by government initiated austerity measures, who already struggle just to provide for their their families and themselves because of low wages. For them, strikes are personally extremely sacrificial. Also, they are not as well organised as those in the middle class professions or as savvy when it comes to taking on employers.

The teachers and doctors are, in my opinion, being selfish. If they win then the poorly paid will suffer the consequences. Of course, if the teachers and doctors were including the lowly paid in other occupations, in particular those occupations that support doctors and teachers, within their action, refusing to accept a deal unless it was the same deal for everyone, then their action could be seen as righteous. But they are not and they never do. In both the teaching profession and within the medical profession, those in the higher paid posts always organise separately, always make their own pay and conditions claims, and never tie these in with the aspirations of the lower paid staff.

From where I stand, trying to survive on £600 per month, teachers and doctors are as much a part of the problem as bankers and other big business fat cats. They don't have to be but they choose to be.



  1. Perhaps, it would be best to separate the teachers from the doctors. I don’t know what wage teachers earn, and even if they are well-paid, as you say, they earn every penny of their wages, and I’m quite certain their pay doesn’t fall into the category of obscene. The teachers in England whom I know hardly live in the lap of luxury. To lump the teachers with the doctors seems altogether unfair to me.

    I taught school for several years, so I know a bit about the job. The teachers have my unwavering support.

  2. I think teachers take full advantage of the sentimentality parents have towards them. Personally, I think my dustman works harder than any teacher and earns a wage so much smaller than a teacher’s average wage that he would be well entitled to lump teachers in with doctors.

  3. My sympathy levels are also rather low. Teachers will not lose any entitlements they have accrued so far. Yes, young teachers will find it hard, but give me a group of people who doesn’t at the moment?

    I am really cross about the massive debts we’re piling on to our children. My girls will come out of uni with debts of about £30,000 they’ll find it really hard to get a house and a mortgage, they’ll have far less job security than my generation did, they’ll have to earn the money for the pensions and for the old age care my generation will need, at the same time as having less than I did when I started out…. and MY generation goes on strike for pensions????

  4. Again, we in the U. S. have to be careful to separate the situation of teachers in the U. S. from that of teachers in the U. K. Similarity is not 1:1 equivalence.

  5. In the U. S., the situation we ran across here in Southwest Georgia was a union in a tire factory who had the highest wages, benefits, and least number of required work hours of any people in the community, who demanded even more or they’d strike, with the result the tire factory closed, causing several other businesses to close, wreaking havoc on the local economy and destroying unionizing efforts in other, genuinely abused groups here – teachers and paraprofessionals included. When a new tire company opened, many of these union people then came back expecting the same conditions and were shocked when the company said “no previous employees of Company X need apply” and positively incensed and outraged when the rest of a community recovering from the depression they caused wouldn’t fight for them and now distrust and are hostile to any union – “Don’t you know how our union stands for the little working man like you?!”