While the Executive has yet to implement Conference policy calling for national action, union groups have been encouraged to take school-based action. Yet reps from two school NUT groups are expressing their concern at the decisions taken by National Action Officers over the action proposed for their schools. An opportunity for the Union to show that it is taking a firm lead in defending members is in danger of being replaced by confusion and even bitterness.
Members at Prestwich Arts College in Bury were disappointed that the one-day strike action which they were going to take on July 7th - against the threat of increased timetable loadings (a threat faced by school groups around the country as a consequence of not funding the 'rarely cover' provisions) - was reduced to just a one-hour strike, without consultation with members at the school. They are calling for one-day action to be reinstated to take place next week.
Members at St.Pauls Way school in Tower Hamlets have been angered by the postponement of strike action proposed to oppose compulsory redundancies. In this case, the proposal to call off the action was put to the members at a school meeting where 40 attended. However, the rep reports that the meeting voted unanimously for the strike action to go ahead. They understandably feel let down that the national Union has, as yet, not changed its position.
I have today spoken to both my Inner London National Executive members to pass on these concerns. Both Kevin Courtney and Alex Kenny agreed that the Union needed to reconsider its position in these two disputes. I hope that this will be the case.
As in any dispute, there are bound to be differences over strategy. In both these disputes, I understand that key National Officers felt that their decisions correctly reflected some concessions made by the employers. However, it is clear that this is not the view of the members in the schools concerned.
If the Union is to successfully build the confidence to take action, then we must listen to the views of members directly involved in the dispute and consult fully with school groups in developing the correct strategy at each stage. Where members are prepared to take action, then there would have to be very good reason not to back them in taking it. Where there are differences, then every effort has to be made to debate, discuss and come to a common agreement on the right way forward. Imposing a strategy from above will only demoralise and divide.
In both these cases, members are prepared to act. We should grab opportunities to show the strength of the union by taking such action, raising confidence to fight in these Associations and beyond.