Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
Manchester Evening News
Manchester Evening News
Beth Abbit

The Mancunian Way: Walkout Wednesday

Keep up to date with all the big stories from across Greater Manchester in the daily Mancunian Way newsletter. You can receive the newsletter direct to your inbox every weekday by signing up right here.

Here's the Mancunian Way for today:


“Support staff will be lost to supermarket jobs that pay more.”

That’s the prediction of one teacher union rep who says those striking today are fighting for far more than just fair wages.

“Parents know from first-hand experience that children are losing out because of the chronic shortage of teachers. Often pupils are being taught by short-term supply, or staff who aren’t qualified in the subject they’re teaching,” NEU joint general secretary Kevin Courtney said.

Schools across the country were closed today due to action by the National Education Union (NEU) with dozens across Greater Manchester also closing their doors.

And hundreds of union members gathered at St Peter’s Square this afternoon for a rally organised by Manchester Trades Union Council.

Striking workers take to the streets in Manchester (Manchester Evening News)

Among them were Jamie and Lindsey, teachers at Great Academy, in Ashton-under-Lyne. Jamie told reporter Tom George - who has been reporting from picket lines all day - that he felt compelled to strike because of the number of teachers leaving the profession.

“If it goes on like this, we will not have a very good education system,” he said.

Tom also met Aliyah, who teaches at a south Manchester school and also works a second job as a waitress.

“I’ve always wanted to be a teacher,” she said. “I can’t afford my bills. When I did my training year, the salary was £6,000 a year. That doesn’t cover day-to-day bills.”

On her job as a waitress, she added: “I’m on minimum wage and I get tips. I’m making £300 a week. I finish school on Friday and work as a waitress after school until midnight. I work all day Saturday and Sunday morning. I only have Sunday evening to prep.”

Aliyah (right) at the rally in Manchester (Manchester Evening News)

Schools across the country are currently facing huge challenges with recruitment. And headteachers and staff have been ringing alarm bells for some time.

Michael Brown, an NEU rep in Stockport, told The Mancunian Way: “Support staff will be lost to supermarket jobs that pay more. There is a recruitment crisis mainly due to the low salary.

“During the lockdowns we were key workers and people were clapping for us. Now we need more funding for our schools and school staff.

“Outside of the pay increase schools need more funding to cover this, more money for supplies in school and for the local authority to invest in school buildings which have gone to ruin.”

When Rishi Sunak last month announced plans for all pupils in England to study some form of maths until 18, Glyn Potts highlighted the more pressing matters in education.

The Newman RC College headteacher told this newsletter schools can’t recruit Maths teachers ‘for love nor money’ as salaries have not kept pace with other jobs.

“If you have got a maths degree why would you go into education? And it’s not necessarily about pay, it’s about conditions,” he said at the time. "In education the conditions are poor, salaries are still less than in industry and you get slurs from government ministers about education.”

Read more: Headteacher speaks out as thousands go on strike with schools forced to shut

Sending a message

It’s not just teachers striking today. Civil servants, train and bus drivers and university staff also stopped work on the biggest single day of strikes in a decade sparked by increasingly bitter disputes over pay, jobs and conditions.

Picket lines were mounted outside railway stations, schools, government departments and universities. Unions say they are receiving strong support from the public.

More than 100,000 members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union are on strike, including Border Agency staff at ports and airports.

TUC general secretary Paul Nowak said he hopes the protests and strikes will send a strong message to the Government about the anger felt by growing numbers of workers.

Around 100,000 civil servants have voted for a national strike (PA Wire/PA Images)

A raw pay deal

Andy Burnham says firefighters are 'struggling with the cost of living crisis' following a 'raw pay deal', as Joseph Timan reports.

The Greater Manchester mayor says the fire service has 'not necessarily been prioritised in the past' and workers are 'worrying about what's going on' with their own family budgets.

Mr Burnham's comments at the Greater Manchester Police, Fire and Crime Panel last Thursday came as it was announced firefighters and control room staff have voted to strike in a dispute over pay.

Members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) backed walkouts by 88 per cent on a huge turnout of 73 per cent after earlier rejecting a five per cent pay offer. The union said it was giving the Government and employers 10 days to make an improved offer before deciding its next move. No proposed dates have been given yet.

(Kenny Brown | Manchester Evening News)

‘We are not like how they are trying to portray us’

“What fresh hell is this in Manchester?” Trafford councillor Joanne Harding asked her Twitter followers on posting a picture of the Animaid Café.

“A ‘maid cafe’ - No touching or asking to touch the maids. We have a gender based violence strategy and ask ‘is this ok?’ - this makes my fresh [sic] crawl,” the councillor wrote, in a tweet that has been viewed nearly 60,000 times, with almost 300 likes.

As Ben Arnold and Lyell Tweed report, many others weighed and one follower branded the café ‘Hooters for incels’, to which Harding replied ‘it’s disgusting’.

Alice Renee and Vic Littley at the Animaid cafe, in Afflecks Palace (Manchester Evening News)

But the owner of the Animaid Café - which is within Manchester’s historic Afflecks Palace - says the councillor has misunderstood Japanese ‘maid café’ culture, where staff dress in anime-style maid’s uniforms often seen in Manga cartoons.

Coun Harding expressed concerns about a sign asking people not to touch the maids. But staff say rules are in place to empower staff and keep them safe.

Manager Vick Littley said the councillor’s comments ‘just felt derogatory’. “Most of the staff are young women - the post has been done with no grasp of what we actually are. We are a themed café where people can play board games, watch anime, sit and talk, study. We are not like how they are trying to portray us, we’re a bubble tea anime-themed café,” she said.

Waitresses at maid cafes in Japan wear maid dresses, often harking back to Victorian styles, though updated in the style of Manga cartoons, with shorter skirts. They are aimed mostly at young people and families.

Vick says Animaid hosts many family-friendly events and the rules at the door make the space ‘a safe place for anyone who wants to come’. She also pointed to the ‘diverse, open, and welcoming’ atmosphere Afflecks is known for.

“We’re no different to other themed cafes, like the cat café or gaming cafes that are popular everywhere,” she says. “It’s a community of people who get made fun of a lot as it is, which is why the post was sad to see. People who feel left out come here and make friends which is very positive.”

Coun Harding says she is supportive of small independent business and has ‘at no point’ suggested the cafe should close. “I am also not about preventing young people from meeting and having fun. I am about the safety of women and girls in Greater Manchester in line with our Gender Based Violence strategy,” she said.

Just the tip of the iceberg

Maxine Peake is among those showing their support for Oldham Coliseum, following news that the 135-year-old theatre has cancelled all upcoming shows and events.

The Bafta-nominated star said she was ‘heartbroken’, telling the BBC: "Oldham is just the tip of the iceberg as we slip into a situation where the arts will recede from view and be only for the privileged few.”

As Charlotte Green reports, the Fairbottom Street theatre was one of the oldest still operating in Britain. It has relied on the support of Arts Council England to continue to stage performances, including its hugely popular Christmas pantomimes.

In November it was revealed that the Coliseum’s application to remain in the ACE portfolio for the next three years had been unsuccessful. It had applied for £615,182 a year to 2026, totalling more than £1.84m.

With bosses facing a funding black hole, all events and shows are being cancelled from the end of March.

“It has been an incredibly difficult decision to cancel the programme of events and we understand the disappointment this will undoubtedly cause. The Coliseum asks audiences to be patient whilst staff work through each refund transaction manually,” a statement from the Coliseum reads.

Sign up to The Mancunian Way

Has a friend forwarded you this edition of The Mancunian Way? You can sign up to receive the latest email newsletter direct to your inbox every weekday by clicking on this link.

Weather etc

  • Thursday: Cloudy. 11C.
  • Road closures: M56 Eastbound exit slip road to the A34 closed due to roadworks at A34 Kingsway until February 5.
  • One lane closed due to carriageway repairs on M56 in both directions between J7 A556 Chester Road (Bowdon) and J5 (Manchester Airport). Source:Council until February 18.
  • Trains: Disruption to trains across England with no service on most routes due to strike action on February 1 and 3.
  • Advance Warning - Services being diverted on Transpennine Express between Manchester Piccadilly and Sheffield and trains not stopping at Stockport due to engineering works, from February 4 to 5. Trivia question: Which Marvel superhero is from Manchester?

Manchester headlines

  • High Court: Residents opposing a skyscraper dubbed the ‘tombstone’, containing 850 student flats, have lost their battle in the High Court. The 55-storey tower on top of a car park off Oxford Road, in Manchester, was approved in July 2021. Residents opposed it on environmental grounds, raising issues surrounding possible exposure to contaminated construction dust; how often a crane would go over a car park; and access to their parking spaces. Mr Justice Fordham ruled there was not enough evidence to overturn the approval decision and ruled against the Macintosh Village residents. The group had to pay £10,000 to Manchester council in court costs. The approval for construction to go ahead was not overturned. Story here.

  • Late night: A campaign for late-night trams to carry revellers and hospitality workers home safely on the Altrincham tram line has been unanimously approved. Trafford council has followed the example of neighbouring Salford in its bid to get Metrolink services running beyond 11.55pm when the last tram is often choc-a-bloc with passengers. The move has been welcomed across all parties on the Labour-controlled authority. More here.

  • Regeneration: A blueprint to guide the regeneration and development of a large area of Old Trafford and Gorse Hill has been approved. Trafford council has given the thumbs-up to the Civic Quarter Area Action plan which covers 136 acres of land. Long-term plans for the area are for 50 acres of brownfield development alongside the delivery of 'quality green space', 4,000 new 'high-quality' homes and more than 500,000 square feet of new office space. More here.

  • Inspection: Children’s services in Trafford are no longer rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted following a recent inspection by the regulator. A comprehensive inspection took place over a three-week period between November and December 2022, with inspectors finding an overall ‘improvement in the quality of social work in Trafford’ with ‘significant political and corporate support and commitment to the improvement of outcomes for children and young people in Trafford.’ The report praises the council’s strong partnership working, significant investment in children’s services and a culture focused on children and found that ‘social workers in Trafford are overwhelmingly positive about both the local authority and the support they receive.’ More here.
  • Warm bank: An award-winning community pub in Hulme has been opening up its upstairs rooms for locals and families to keep warm in the face of rising energy bills. The Old Abbey Taphouse refurbished what was previously the pub’s meeting room, and has fitted it out with sofas and a projector, turning it into a ‘warm bank’. It’s open a few nights a week, and anyone is welcome to come and keep warm. More here.

Worth a read

The tragic death of mental health blogger Beth Matthews shone a light on the best and worst of the internet.

Though she shared her own struggles online to empower and save others, ultimately, her own life could not be saved. She died after ingesting a deadly substance bought online whilst detained under the care of the Priory Hospital in Cheadle.

An inquest in Stockport last month revealed how at her most vulnerable, Beth was drawn to the darkest corners of the internet. And her death has prompted questions about the role of social media and online forums, as it emerged she had accessed a number of suicide websites in the weeks before she died.

Sophie Halle-Richards has written about the people struggling to find help with their mental health, who end up turning to the internet.

That's all for today

Thanks for joining me. If you have stories you would like us to look into, email

If you have enjoyed this newsletter today, why not tell a friend how to sign up?

The answer to today's trivia question is: Union Jack

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.