A Community Network for Bowes Park and Bounds Green
Yesterday my employer informed me that I am at risk of redundancy. It might be a surprise for you to know that I am a teacher. After all, the political parties never cease from promising to protect or invest more in education. Obviously Further Education doesn’t count as real education.
I will join a pool of colleagues who will have to re-apply for our posts. In Further Education our employers operate a two-tier system of contracts – secure professional contracts (Main Grade Lecturers) and Hourly-Paid Lecturers on zero-hour contracts. Our Hourly Paid Lecturers will not be in the pool for redundancy. Redundancy provides the opportunity for the employer to reduce professional contracts in favour of zero-hours, just as austerity provides politicians with a smokescreen for their ideological obsession with reducing the size of the state, promoting a low-wage economy and punishing the poor. So, not only will jobs be lost, educational opportunities for our students will be reduced and security of employment will be further undermined. In our college, whole departments, such as Art and Travel and Tourism, will close.
I have been a teacher for 36 years. Two of those years were spent abroad. I have contributed to the economy by paying my taxes for 34 years. I have several years to wait before I am eligible for the state pension. My job opportunities, should any exist, are likely to be limited to minimum wage, zero hour contracts in retail or as a cleaner – similar to the work undertaken by my part-time students. In my younger days, I was fortunate that I was the recipient of free education – I have an Honours degree in Modern Languages and a PGCE. I hope I have repaid that investment during my time in employment – 20 years in secondary schools and 11 years in a college. I re-trained as a teacher after the first 20 years at my own expense to gain two further professional qualifications to enable me to teach in a different sector.
My tax revenues will now be lost to the treasury and my spending power will be severely weakened.. Instead of continuing to be a contributor to the economy, I may be obliged to take from society rather than to give, in the form of unemployment benefits, housing benefit or working tax credit, if I manage to find a low-paid job.
Will the General Election provide me with an opportunity to reverse my unfortunate circumstance? Well, there are only two parties in my constituency with a chance of winning. The Liberal Democrats as part of the Coalition Government are one of the creators of my predicament. On Question Time on Thursday, Ed Miliband was asked if he would reverse the 24% cut to adult education (50% over the term of the last government) but he flatly said no. Both parties are committed to further austerity policies and thereby increasing inequality and the wealth gap.
Austerity isn’t a mere concept. It has blighted the lives of countless individuals and will continue to do so unless voting habits change in favour of anti-austerity parties. This won’t happen overnight and it won’t happen this week in our constituency, but voting anti-austerity can have a positive long-term effect on the major parties if sufficient numbers of voters make their views known via the ballot box. It will make no difference to my immediate situation, but it can prevent others in the long-run from suffering as others are doing through no fault of their own. The electorate in Scotland are giving us a lead that we ought to follow.
The major parties are running campaigns of fear – telling us that our vote can have unexpected results. I understand this. At the last General Election I voted Lib Dem and my vote was handed over to a political party I am completely ideologically opposed to. We don’t know the horse-trading that will take place after the result is announced. What we do know is that the political parties are lying to us. BBC Political Editor Nick Robinson advises that you “make a judgement based on whose values you share and who you trust”. That is what I intend to do. Why don’t you join me?