Tuesday, 28 June 2011

June 30th: Supporting the Strikes

On the 30th of June, thousands of education and public sector workers in four trade unions will be out on strike. Jess Bradley from Manchester SSDP argues that drug law reformers should support the strikes, demonstrations, actions and occupations happening around the 30th.

A few months ago at conference, SSDP delegates from chapters across the country voted in favour of motion calling for a national campaign against cuts to education and health services, particularly those which disproportionately effects vulnerable groups and those more likely to be harmed by the 'War on Drugs'.

Trade unions representing teachers, lecturers, and job centre workers have all voted overwhelmingly in favour of taking strike action in response to cuts to pensions, but have made it clear that their actions are broadly oppositional to the recent agenda of cuts to frontline services.

It has long been said that the most important part of the services we access are people who deliver them, in this case the workers in the education and health sectors. In supporting the workers as they fight for better pay, conditions and pensions, we support the services themselves – because a teacher who is struggling to make ends meet is not a teacher who is fully focussed on providing the best education to those who need it.

Why is it important for drug law reformers to support the strikes on Thursday? Because drug users, both problematic and non-problematic, disproportionately rely on the services that are being defended. Valuable research on the harms of drugs, or different aspects of drug policy, may no longer be undertaken if academics in University departments are priced out of working in education institutions because the pay in industry is so much better, and the money available for funding diminishes.

Pastoral services, such as drug and sex education in schools may be overlooked as teachers struggle financially, and class sizes rise as less people are able to enter teacher training. Problematic drug users may find it harder to get back into work or education if services at Job Centres, schools and colleges are cut.

As activists aware of the spiralling cost of funding an unnecessary and harmful War on Drugs, it seems clear that, regardless of your opinion on whether the current cuts are necessary, we are wasting vast amounts of money on pursuing a failed drug policy at the expense of funding education and health services.

What can we do? Get involved in your local anti-cuts campaign by joining demonstrations and pickets at your institutions, job centres, and workplaces. Take a banner or a placard linking the rising cost of prohibition and the increasing levels of cuts to services that drug users rely on. Go to your local meetings and talk to activists about drug law reform. Remember to send pictures of you supporting demonstrations and pickets to education[at]ssdp.org.uk

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