Stop using children as leverage against strikes


This week British rail workers will take part in the biggest strike for over 30 years. The railroad, maritime and transport union (RMT) said it plans to “shut down the rail system” on June 21, 23 and 25, with huge support from its members for strikes protesting planned layoffs and demanding higher wages. Like many other industries, railroad workers have been hit by the pandemic-induced wage freeze. inflation reduced the real value of their wages.

Governments are never happy with strikes. The Labor Party has also failed so far to give full support to workers for a better quality of life during the war. cost of living crisis. But this time the Tories fell particularly low. Taking advantage of the fact that the strike week falls at the time of final exams, Education Minister Nadhim Zahavi said it would be “a blatant disgrace if railway unions actively prevent some students from going to exams … just for their own political purposes.”

Banning children from going to school to achieve political goals, where have we seen this before? Zahavi plucked up the courage to blame railroad workers for keeping children out of school, given that this is exactly what the government has been demanding for the past two years. Robin Walker, Minister for School Standards, said taking a break during the exam would have a “long-term impact on children’s lives and this is unacceptable.” What about the long-term consequences of two years of distance learning, which for many children meant no learning at all? While the closure of some schools may have been justified in the face of the early Covid storm, it quickly became clear that the schools were being used as a vehicle for political demonstration. Instead of considering the long-term consequences of children not attending classes, without resources, poor internet, and overworked parents struggling to gain access to Zoom, politicians have slammed the door on education to show they are doing the right thing.

It was more than disappointing to see people falling for this provocation. “Shamefully,” quarantine skeptic Laura Dodsworth wrote. “Please put the youth first this time.” Conservative MP Nicky Aiken reveled in support, she said Telegraph the strike was “unforgivable”, and Evening standard that it was “terrible”. Using children as political leverage has never been a good idea, but it’s doubly bad to assume that those planning the strike don’t have children in mind. From the RMT to the planned strikes among scavengers, post office workers, bus drivers, airport workers and healthcare workers, working people are sending a message to employers and politicians that living in the face of economic catastrophe is unbearable. The news is full of stories of families having to choose between heating and food. And while public policy does not meet the needs of working parents, is it any wonder that so many people have decided to act?

With advance notice, young people will simply have to plan ahead, perhaps even waking up a little earlier to get to their exam rooms on time. Understanding that the world doesn’t revolve around your schedule is just as important a self-awareness lesson as English, math, and science. Passing GCSE exams is, of course, very important for the cohort of students who have suffered from learning failures. However, turning these students against their parents, neighbors, or family members who are fighting for better conditions is indeed an unforgivable act. Politicians have long been demonizing striking workers with impunity to save their own skins, but we must not allow them to use our children as a shield.

[See also: Boris Johnson may live to regret picking a fight over the Northern Ireland protocol]

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