Former Ofsted leader shows the growing dangerous attitude toward Public Sector workers
On 26th February the Independent reported that the Sir Michael Wilshaw, the former chief inspector of schools, said that teachers need to show a “similar commitment” to medical professionals, who in some cases have “sacrificed their lives.”
This statement is not only worrying for its demand for teachers, vital public workers who have done everything possible to continue to educate our children throughout the pandemic, to put their lives at even greater risk but also that the sacrifices and deaths in the NHS and Care professions are not only acceptable they are to be expected.
Anyone who has experienced the work done by those in the NHS, seen their stories online or spoken to friends and family working in those areas will know that what they have done to protect our collective health has been nothing short of magnificent. Stories of long hours, lack of PPE, greater rates of infections and deaths, isolation from friends and family above and beyond what the rest of us have suffered has I’m sure moved us all.
The statement Sir Michael Wilshaw made though, not only denigrates what they have done in dealing with the results of generations of under investment and privatisation in the NHS and Care Services; but sets it as an example of what the establishment believe should be expected by other public servants.
When someone from his background and in his position of authority makes such a statement it is a clear sign that the political establishment and the vested interests in the country are lining up to attack public sector workers and that this is one of the early shots in what will become a more attritional campaign against public sector workers.
I have seen first hand that teachers have been working hard throughout the pandemic to support their students. My partner is a teacher and I’ve seen her do long days lesson after lesson online, adjusting to a whole new way of working with little notice or time to prepare due to short notice Government announcements. Days of teaching followed by evenings of marking and weekends of planning for the following week.
The suggestion that teachers should “show a similar commitment” to healthcare workers not only fails to take account of everything that has been done so far by Teachers and other Public Sector workers, but also sets a standard that not only are those sacrifices of NHS worker acceptable; they are what should be expected from us all in the public sector.
There should be no doubt that this attitude will be engendered by a succession of authoritarian voices in the coming months; undermining the support shown to Key Workers by the public throughout the pandemic. That it will be used to question our contributions, to undermine our value and to justify the continuation of the attacks on our pay and conditions.
We must reject this and every attempt to normalise sacrifice of workers by leaders and politicians who have never found themselves on the frontlines delivering to struggling communities, in what has been the greatest challenge our generation has faced. We must stand together to demand recognition for our work not only during the pandemic but throughout the years of cuts and austerity leading up to it and continue to fight for our due.
I urge everyone to sign the PCS e-action at www.pcs.org.uk/news/email-sunak-to-tell-him-scrap-the-pay-freeze and to sign up and take part in the TUC rallies for public sector pay at 7:30 on 2nd March at https://bit.ly/37NqM8s to take part in the next step of PCS’ campaign over pay.
Steven Swainston is standing as a Left Unity candidate for the PCS DWP GEC as Group Assistant Secretary and as a Democracy Alliance candidate for the PCS NEC.