TEACHERS, firefighters and Job Centre staff took part in rallies in Oxford yesterday during a national day of industrial action.
In Oxfordshire, 58 schools were either closed or partly closed as members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) went on strike for the third time this academic year.
Parents at affected schools expressed disappointment over the move, although admitted they supported the teachers’ reasons.
Mum-of-two Mary Parlett had to take a day off work to look after her children, seven-year-old Lewis and Neeve, five, both in the only two classes at Harwell Primary School which were affected.
She said: “I see their point, but the fact of the matter is that we are given hardly any notice.”
Nikki Smith, whose seven-year-old son Charley is also a pupil at Harwell, said: “I understand why they are doing it, but that doesn’t sit well with parents.”
Oxfordshire’s assistant secretary for the NUT Ed Finch, a Larkrise Primary School teacher, said: “I’m a father myself and I know how annoying and inconveniencing it is when childcare falls through.
Ed Finch, assistant secretary of Oxfordshire NUT
“What I would say to those parents is ‘please believe we are doing this as a fight for your children, their right to a qualified teacher, their right to a good quality education’.
“I am losing money today. I wouldn’t do that if I didn’t care deeply and what motivates me is children’s education.”
About 50 members of the Fire Brigade Union (FBU), the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) at the Job Centre in Oxford, Unison Health and the Communications Workers Union joined in a march from George Street to Rewley Road fire station, before gathering in Frideswide Square for speeches.
During his weekly questions session in Parliament yesterday, Prime Minister and Witney MP David Cameron said: “I don’t think these strikes are right and I think people should turn up for work.
“I think the time has come for looking at setting thresholds in strike ballots. The (NUT) strike ballot took place in 2012, based on a 27 per cent turnout.
“How can it possibly be right for our children’s education to be disrupted by trade unions acting in that way?
“It is time to legislate and it will be in the Conservative manifesto.”
Slade fire station firefighter Chris Smith said: “I thought we were a democratic society which has a right to union action. I think this is the wrong move by Mr Cameron.”
Oxford East MP Andrew Smith said: “I share local trade unionists’ concerns on important issues at stake in the action being taken, for example the need to make sure all teachers are qualified teachers, a fair deal for firefighters on their pensions and retirement, and the cuts in living standards facing public sector workers, especially the lowest paid who do vital work for our communities.
“The workers concerned feel the Government simply isn’t listening.
“I urge talks and meaningful negotiations.”
Nationally almost 3,000 schools, nurseries and colleges were affected by the walkout and demonstrations took place in London – which teachers from Oxfordshire attended – as well as outside courts, council offices and Job Centres across the country.
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