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When strikes remain the only remaining option

Striking Makerere University students
Striking Makerere University students

When everything fails, strike! This is how people are likely to think when they want to get their points across. We have nurtured generations that believe that it is only through a strike that those in charge will respond to your concerns.

What a pity! Because people in charge always develop the attitude of unconsciousness and become insensitive to people’s concerns.

Most strikes in history have been either labour strikes or political strikes. The use of the English word “strike” first appeared in 1768, when sailors, in support of demonstrations in London, “struck” or removed the topgallant sails of merchant ships at port, thus crippling the ships. Official publications have typically used the more neutral words “work stoppage” or “industrial dispute”

Labour strikes have been more frequent than other strikes. When pay becomes too low to bear, options exist in the form of negotiating with a boss and/or working overtime, finding a new job that pays better, or sucking it up.

When all these options fail you have to expect a strike. The high possibility of a labour strike springs from the fact that workers constitute a group of people united by common characteristics and can easily be mobilized to focus on a common cause.

In 2007 South Africa miners stage a one-day strike. The entirety of the mining industry went on strike against the unsafe conditions of working in a mine.

While the dangers of a mine are nothing new, just like any mine craft veteran who has ever gone spelunking for iron ore after dark knows, it was the rise in deaths between 2006 and 2007, and a government plan to reduce this number, which prompted such a resounding outcry.

Teachers have been on strikes on several occasions in Uganda, and this has not only occurred here. It is a tireless mantra: teachers have forever been called “overworked and underpaid.

Teachers went on strike in September 2011 in Washington, for the reasons of low pay, classroom size and the way in which districts toss teachers around. The protests caused schools to remain closed for days on end. Despite the strike, teachers still get little more than that shiny red apple on their desk.

The UK postal strike was caused by failure to deliver

tens of millions of items from the summer of 2009 to the Spring of 2010, due to picketing postal workers. The strike was agreed upon after Royal Mail failed to disclose how modernization plans would affect workers’ job security.

A letter-route sequencing machine, for instance, would, effectively, render human workers obsolete. A deal was eventually struck, in the form of higher pay and an agreement to maintain 75% of workers in full-time positions.

Political strikes are sometimes used to pressure governments to change policies. Occasionally, strikes destabilize the rule of a particular political party or ruler; in such cases, strikes are often part of a broader social movement taking the form of a campaign of civil resistance.

As distinct from a strike intended to impose the aims of a collective agreement, a political strike is directed not against the employer but against Parliament or the Government; the intention is that the latter, in order to avoid damage to the national economy as a whole, will thereby be prevailed upon to take a particular form of action.

Schools and institutions have also participated in strikes.

Over the years students have become much more passive.  They sit at desks, and in many cases, are expected to listen and do what they are told without question. In some classrooms it is commonplace to question the learning taking place in classroom. In others, question may not be allowed at all.

Today things are a bit different. Students have rights and privileges and will always demand for them if the administration delays to extend them to the students. But the major causes of strikes in schools are failure by those in charge to listen and respond in time and denial of students a chance to participate in decision making.

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