Article from the May 2004 edition, Socialist Voice

our schools are not for sale

For a one day education strike

MASS PRIVATISATION of education in Northern Ireland through Tony Blair's Public Private Partnerships scheme (PPP) is now on the cards.

By Brian Booth

Already a number of schools have been sold off to the private sector. More are on the way, and the most high profile of these has been Bangor Academy and Comber High School which have hit the press due to the campaign launched by public sector unions UNISON and NIPSA.

The recent announcement by the Belfast Education and Library Board that at least another ten PPP schemes to the value of 125,000,000 will begin in Belfast and that the private sector "may take responsibility for the management planning and delivery of estates maintenance services" is worrying enough but the announcement goes further and states that it "may cover the remainder of the estate controlled by the Authority."

This is the clearest indicator yet that the suspicion that the Government plans to carry out a whole scale sell off of education buildings and services is true!

This policy puts thousands of jobs at risk. The huge amount of publicly owned education property (approx 1,250 buildings in NI) will disappear. Multinational companies will reap super profits, and working class people will pay through the nose in taxes. This will cause chaos in the future funding of education. PPP will mean a bleak future for education as we know it.

The trade unions must deal with this situation. They must send out a clear signal that this Government policy will never be accepted. A good start has been made in the campaign in North Down against the sell off of the Comber and Bangor schools. It is time now to develop a campaign across all five Northern Ireland Education Board areas. That campaign must involve breaking through the Government spin surrounding PPP and get a clear message out to people so that the issues are clearly understood.

To really succeed, the campaign must be based on an understanding that the New Labour Government is determined to use public services as a source of profit for their business friends. This Government and the Northern Ireland's main political parties all follow Blair's dictates on this and are no friend of working class communities.

New Labour, alongside the local parties, is determined to sell off our education system. The only way to halt them is by building a significant movement of communities and trade unions against their policies.

The trade unions must not wait any longer. The education unions must organise a one day strike of all education workers as the first step in an ongoing campaign, building to all out action if necessary. Education should always be free and stay public. Our children's education is not for sale!

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