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Famous Norfolk strike a hundred years ago still has lessons for us today


In the summer, I joined hundreds of Trade Unionists, and Political activists who turned out for this year’s Burston Rally. 2014 is the centenary of the event which prompted the longest strike in history.

The strike lasted from 1914 until 1939 and involved the children and teachers at the local school. The teachers Annie and Tom Higdon had been sacked for showing their support for the local agricultural workers. But thanks to the local community and support from the labour movement they were able to start an alternative school and run it until Tom Higdon’s death in 1939.

Despite intimidation of the parents of the children, many of whom were agricultural workers, they continued to support the strike school and as a result 'Burston remains one of the key events every year in the Trade Union calendar.

This year the speakers included author and political commentator Owen Jones and Jeremy Corbyn MP who were strongly critical of the Tories continued attack on working people.

The Burston School Strike showed what working people can do when we organise and stand together. The Living Wage campaign I’ve been working on here in Norwich is one way to try and seek better pay. But strong Trade Unions able to defend and maintain their members pay and conditions offers the best long-term prospect against falling wages.

Dozens of Trade Unions were represented at the Burston Rally; they were keen to show their opposition to the government’s attack on public sector pay and pensions and the hardship this has caused to working families right across the country..

And just like the children of Burston, in support of their teachers 100 years ago, hundreds of union members and political activists joined a march around the village to show solidarity with working people still fighting to maintain decent working conditions for their members.

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