Sara Malm: Going on strike is disgraceful, selfish and, quite frankly, passé


How would you classify a group of people that take hostages to make themselves heard? Put on any decent Liam Neeson movie and they're called criminals. Come to Britain in the 21st century and they are called workers' unions. Exaggerating? I don't think so.

I do not have children (yet), but if I did then the proposed teachers' strike would knock me off my feet. Strikes prevent hardworking people from putting food on their tables, they confine them to their homes and, yes, hold economic growth and opportunities hostage for all of us.

It is a selfish, disgraceful and, quite frankly, passé behaviour which has no place in a market economy, especially not one four years into a recession.

NASUWT's general secretary Chris Keates said: "It will be entirely the responsibility of the coalition government, not teachers." She cannot be further from the truth – it will be entirely the responsibility of all the people forced to pick up your slack, not David Cameron or Nick Clegg.

What about parents facing the prospect of losing their jobs (because unlike you union workers, when the rest of us do not show up for work, we get fired) when the only other unthinkable option available to them is to leave their children at home unsupervised? Or small business owners with no one to pile their workload on? And for those who are able to book time off work; why on earth should they have to use their hard-earned holiday days to cover for you? I would really love to see you argue with these people why your six-week summer holiday is "essential".

If there is one thing that I have learnt from six years working entry-level jobs, it is that when someone pulls a sickie, everyone else on the floor has to work twice as hard, while the people at the top remain untouched. And if everyone on the floor knows you went out last night – ie, you don't actually need a sick day – you can expect a very icy welcome back the next day. So no matter how much you have cured your hangover, there is a whole new issue on the table.

True, there was a time when I too put on a sour face, folded my arms and plonked my behind in a corner until I got what I wanted and thought I deserved.

But time passed, my two front teeth came through and I learnt that this is not the way to solve a conflict. I am not a politician nor a union leader, but if a five-year-old can understand that compromise and zero aggression gets you further than stomping your feet, then you can too. So do what I did. Grow a pair.

The writer is studying Journalism and the News Industry at the University of Kent.

Simon Kelner is away