Last Sunday Boris Johnson announced that the Tories intend to reopen primary and reception schools year 1 and year 6 on June 1st, with secondary schools years 10 and 12 opening up before the summer.
Johnson’s announcement was immediately denounced by the National Education Union (NEU) which immediately emailed its members saying that Johnson ‘has not shown us the evidence that this is safe’ despite the union continually asking for this information since March.
The email concludes that ‘Without the evidence, the science and safety measures in place, we think this announcement is nothing short of reckless.’
Behind the push to return young children back to school in two weeks, regardless of any scientific evidence that it is safe for either them or their teachers, is the overriding need for the capitalist class to organise a return to work for every worker in the country.
This was spelt out in the editorial in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph which put the issue bluntly saying:
‘If parents are going to be able to return to work and help get the economy moving again before it crashes completely, they need to send their children to school.’
So that’s it in a nutshell – reopening schools regardless of the risk to kids and teachers is necessary if bankrupt businesses and industry are to stand any chance of surviving the massive recession.
Johnson naturally has the full support of the privately owned academy chains whose profits have been wiped out during the closure and who are desperate to reopen.
The 30,000 strong teachers union, the NASUWT, yesterday wrote to local authorities threatening legal action to defend teachers against being forced back to work on June 1.
NASUWT general secretary Patrick Roach wrote that the union had ‘fundamental concerns’ about the government guidance on reopening and that while ‘Stringent guidance has been issued for the NHS, for care homes and for employers across the UK, it is unacceptable that this has not been the case for schools.’
Roach warns local authorities as employers risk legal action for ‘breach of duty of care and personal injury due to foreseeable risk, and any other legal recourse available’ if teachers are forced to return during the pandemic.
This hasn’t stopped representatives from the teaching unions meeting with the government and employers yesterday to discuss ‘safe’ reopening of schools.
By restricting the defence of their members to simply issuing threats of invoking legal action under health and safety laws, the leadership of the teachers unions are throwing their members to the wolves.
In effect they are placing the responsibility for refusing to return to work in unsafe conditions on the shoulders of individual members and denying them the collective strength of their trade union.
Individual education workers will face the pressure from both employers and government to return to work, with the unions only promising to take their cases to a tribunal if they refuse.
The fundamental role of unions is precisely to ensure that individuals are not forced to confront the employer as a helpless individual. It is not just the teaching unions that have refused to mobilise their strength to protect the rights of their members.
Not a single union has called for all-out strikes to safeguard the jobs and health of their members, instead falling back on the excuse that Tory anti-union laws make calling official strikes illegal.
The issue for teachers and the entire working class today is to demand that these leaders stop kowtowing to Tory law, break off all collaboration with the bosses and government and declare that any attempt to force a single worker to return to work will be met with national strike action.
This is the only way to defend the health of workers and children. Such a call will receive the overwhelming support of workers and pave the way for a political general strike to bring down the Tories and go forward to a workers government and socialism.
Only when capitalism is overthrown and replaced with socialism can the process of building a safe future for workers and future generations of workers take place.