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Why the fight to save British steel matters to teaching unions

Cardiff teacher MATT FLAMENCO pledges solidarity to the Port Talbot strikers, warning that losing vital industries will blight already struggling communities and shatter the futures of the classroom’s most vulnerable children

IN Port Talbot and Llanwern, Unite and GMB members have successfully balloted for industrial action, beginning on June 18.

The steelworkers and communities of Port Talbot and Llanwern have given a clear message to Tata Steel and the neoliberal economic policies that have destroyed industry in Britain. Enough is enough.

When the communities of the children we teach are in danger of being hollowed out, it is our responsibility as members of the wider trade union movement to not stand idly by.

Wales is already behind in academic progress, economic development, transport and child poverty — the loss of jobs in Port Talbot and Llanwern would be a further demoralising factor to the disenfranchised working class.

I know what it is like to teach in an area with child poverty. When I was a teacher in the St Mellons and Trowbridge area, I taught children that we knew would not receive any presents for Christmas, who would come from broken homes and wait outside of our school for an hour before it opened and linger for as long as they could after school, whose only source of warmth during the winter were our classrooms.

The school and its amazing pastoral staff went above and beyond to educate and help these children — but it shouldn’t have to be this way.

Make no mistake — these material conditions are the result of decades of neglect and successive prime ministers in the Labour and Conservative Party whose only role is to act as stewards of Britain for the financial elite, they have nothing to do with a moral failing of the working class or their communities as the Murdoch media rags would suggest.

The conditions of eastern Cardiff are not unique — it’s a story that is happening all over the country and it is what will happen in Port Talbot when you rob thousands of people of their livelihoods and right to live a life in dignity.

The job of a teacher is not just to convey information to a group of pupils. What makes us teachers is that we care for the welfare of our pupils.

We want them to grow up into well-rounded adults with successful futures. We care about the communities we teach in. The industrial policy of the government and Tata Steel are a threat to these values and our children’s future.

As members of a trade union, we must fight for a better future for workers of all sectors, whether they are steelworkers, oil workers, doctors, nurses, cleaners or train drivers, we must stand by each other.

When a worker in the steel industry wins, we win. When poverty hangs over our communities like the sword of Damocles, we all lose. That is why I, along with NASUWT and NEU colleagues, stand with the steelworkers of Port Talbot and Llanwern.

Matt Flamenco is a member of Cardiff NASUWT branch and member of NASUWT young members’ advisory committee.

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