Thursday, 30 June 2011

June 30 - Striking and Marching to Demand Fair Pensions for All

The streams of people turned to rivers, and the rivers turned into a flood as delegations of striking trade unionists from all four corners of London converged on Lincoln's Inn Fields for today's London demonstration against pension robbery.


Many had already come from local rallies and picket lines in their own boroughs. There were ten different picket lines outside Lewisham schools and several PCS and UCU pickets as well. £155 for our hardship fund was collected from the picket line outside Crossways Sixth Form! We got our message out early to London via a live interview for LBC radio from the picket line at St.Matthews Academy.

From there, NUT members made their way to Lewisham Town Hall and then up to Charing Cross before marching over to an already packed Lincoln's Inn Fields. There, Paul, a teaching colleague in my own school in Catford, put over our case to Al-Jazeera - just as so many other teachers were able to clearly explain why they weren't prepared to pay more, to work longer and then get less pension. http://english.aljazeera.net/video/europe/2011/06/201163092012758854.html


The demonstration was good-humoured but determined, whistling and chanting as we made our way slowly through the sunshine of Central London. "What do we want - a decent pension - When do we want it - Before we die!" seemed to go down best with the young teachers on the considerable delegation behind the Lewisham NUT banner!


The turnout was two or three times greater than we were expecting - around 20,000 PCS, ATL, UCU and, above all, NUT members marched down Whitehall to the Rally at Westminster Central Hall.

Reports from Lewisham NUT members that managed to make it into Central Hall spoke of an electric atmosphere at the closing Rally addressed by the General Secretaries of all four striking unions. Both in London - and at the dozens of rallies across England and Wales - the unions jointly launched a Fair Pensions for All Petition demanding that all workers and pensioners have dignity and decent living standards in retirement.


I was asked to speak at the overflow rally outside Central Hall to address the many marchers that could not make it inside the hall. Before I spoke, a Lewisham UNISON member and Teaching Assistant explained that he had joined the rally today to show his support. To cheers, he added that, in the Autumn, UNISON and other school staff unions must all be on strike together.


I asked the marchers to "Look around and feel your strength. This Government may have thought they were going to get away with their cuts but now they know that the trade unions are on the march. They tried to claim that 40% was a low turnout for a ballot - but teachers have voted with their feet today with 80-90% of schools closed or partially closed across London". 

"The press try to claim we haven't got public support but the response from parents and drivers passing our picket lines has been excellent. People want to see someone standing up to this Government's cuts at last - and that's what they see us doing today".

"In 2005-6 the threat of united action forced the last Government to retreat over pensions attacks. We can do the same in 2011. If we strike together, then we can win together"

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

See you on the London demonstration!

Striking teachers from across London, along with lecturers and civil servants,  will be gathering in their thousands at Lincoln's Inn Fields at 11 am tomorrow for our march and rally to Stop the Pensions Robbery. The press will also be there in force to cover our action.

Dozens more similar rallies will be taking place across the country where teachers will hear a message of congratulations from Christine Blower and Kevin Courtney pointing out that:
 "The huge response to our united action has taken the Government by surprise ...
It is simply not correct to describe meetings that are to consult about how to implement an unfair tax as genuine negotiations. Our pensions are not gold plated. They are fair. They are affordable. ... We are right to defend them, to defend our profession and to defend education.

90% of Lewisham schools will be partially or totally closed to pupils by the action. Simnilar reports have come in from elsewhere in London. Where teachers have leafleted at their school gates, the support from parents has been noticeable, despite the obvious inconvenience that a strike creates. 

As we have put in our leaflets to parents, "Cutting our pensions won’t help save anybody else’s job or restore private pensions. If the Government succeed, it will only encourage them to carry on cutting everything else as well. But, if we can persuade them to think again, other campaigns are more likely to win too!"

We have just had one isolated case of a school trying to break the action by bringing in staff to put on activities in the absence of striking NUT members - regrettably, football coaches from the Millwall Community Scheme. A number of angry life-long Millwall fans and local trade unionists, such as ex- Socialist Party Councillor Ian Page, have rung to express their anger at Millwall's name being associated with attempts to undermine trade union action. Ian has written a complaint pointing out that  "
We have just had Dockers Day, I'm sure many ex- dockers would not want the club seen as strike breakers"

A Lewisham Teaching Assistant - and Millwall supporter - has written to say that "Many of the kids I work with access the scheme and it is held in high regard, so for its reputation to be tarnished in this way is very disappointing. I hope that Millwall is not involved in or associated with any strike breaking in the future." 
 
But these isolated attempts will have little effect in undermining the solid action of trade union members who will be striking in their hundreds of thousands tomorrow to stop their pay and pensions being raided to pay for a crisis that we did not cause.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

London NUT ready for June 30 Strike

As I was delivering placards to schools this evening ready for the June 30 picket lines, a white-van driver stopped and wound down the window to tell me : "They're talking crap on the radio, we're right behind you".

That anecdote was the perfect answer to the rubbish being spouted by David Cameron today as he tried to insist that public sector pensions have to be cut. Why? Even the Sunday Telegraph has had to admit that "There's nothing unaffordable about public sector pensions" and that the real scandal is the robbery of private-sector schemes. The NUT don't accept a 'race to the bottom' on pensions. We're going to fight to defend our pensions - and support the fight for a decent pension for all in retirement.

But Cameron has made too many false claims on behalf of his millionaire's government for the public to just accept his twisted logic. That's why Lewisham's 'white van man' - and many more - can be won to supporting our action to stop the pensions robbery - and a united campaign to defeat all of the Government's attacks on jobs and services.

In London, it's clear the strike is going to be solid. Reports continue to come in from boroughs of the strong support for Thursday's action. I introduced a lively discussion at today's London NUT Retired Teachers meeting - all active in building and supporting the action on June 30 - to fight for both today's pensioners and for all those still to come.

The Government will try to divide us - pubic sector from private sector, teacher from parent, Local Government Pension Scheme from Teachers Pension Scheme - we've got to stand united in opposition to all their attacks.

June 30 will be an important step in showing that determined opposition.

LONDON MARCH and RALLY: Assemble 11.00 am Lincoln's Inn Fields (Holborn tube), March down Whitehall to rally at Central Hall, Westminster.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Government refuse to listen - NUT strike going ahead



NUT National Press Release:

After the conclusion of today’s talks, it is with regret that the NUT is announcing that we have no other option but to go ahead with the planned day of strike action on Thursday 30 June.

We regret that the Government has still not yet moved from its position on all the key areas of its planned imposition and therefore the NUT needs to demonstrate the strength of feeling amongst our membership.

There has been no movement from the Government on the central propositions that teachers will have to pay 50% more for their pensions which risks many teachers being forced to leave the pension scheme altogether, work much longer to get a full pension, with any teacher aged 34 or less having to work to 68, and get much less for their pension. 

It would appear from the Government’s press statement that it’s now beginning to recognise that there are particular issues in different pension schemes and intends to have in-depth discussions on the Local Government Scheme. It is disappointing to say the least that it does not recognise the particular circumstances relating to the Teachers’ Pension Scheme. This despite the fact that teachers’ pensions were only recently reformed, are affordable as confirmed by the National Audit Office and the agreed valuation promised in that agreement has still not taken place.

We will of course attend all future talks but for talks to be meaningful the Government really does need to address teachers’ central concerns.

Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said;

“The Government has done nothing more today other than confirm it has no intention of listening to teachers. They are simply imposing draconian changes that will see teachers paying more, working longer and getting less with no evidence to back up these claims.

“This was an opportunity for the Government  to live up to its rhetoric that it wanted to participate fully in the negotiations and back track from the announcement on 17 June by the Chief Secretary of the Treasury, Danny Alexander, that the Government’s mind was already made up on the changes it intended to make.

“The action on Thursday is unavoidable and unless the Government starts listening rather than simply imposing its will, it leaves us with little choice other than to consider further action.”

Saturday, 25 June 2011

NUT Strike Parents' Leaflet

Lewisham NUT have produced an updated parents' leaflet explaining "Why Teachers are on strike on June 30" and encouraging families to come and join trade unionists on the London demonstration assembling at Lincoln's Inn Fields at 11.00 am on Thursday.

UPDATE: NOW UPDATED FOR NOVEMBER 30!

Have  a look at the leaflet and many other resources on:

http://local.teachers.org.uk/lewisham/news/Pensions.cfm

Friday, 24 June 2011

NUT & PCS united in action - RMT victory shows the way

It was a privilege to be invited to speak to the AGM of the PCS London and South East Region at PCS Headquarters this afternoon - and an honour to be able to hear Steve Hedley from the RMT give one of the first reports of their stunning victory over the victimisation of RMT rep, Arwyn Thomas.

As Steve made clear, the employers had showed no intention of reinstating Arwyn, despite him winning his Tribunal for unfair dismissal. But a clear program of action had persuaded them to listen. He warned the meeting that the stakes were even higher over pensions - and that public sector unions needed to be ready to declare an equally determined program of action  if we are to force the Government back. Steve also announced a joint meeting in London on July 18th, already supported by the RMT, FBU, CWU and NSSN, to discuss how we build the campaign against all the cuts and attacks in the Autumn.

Dave Bean from the PCS and I described the growing momentum towards June 30. The PCS will be well kitted out at the rallies and marches with T-Shirts and whistles! I called on PCS members who are parents to offer encouragement to teachers - and get ready to strike together in our hundreds of thousands on June 30!

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Gove's strike-breaking threats will backfire

The Government bullies Local Authorities, Local Authorities bully Heads, Heads bully staff ... Teachers have got used to the chain of command that has long been used to drive teachers into excessive workload - and to drive creativity and enjoyment out of the curriculum.

But Gove's attempts to bully Heads into strike-breaking on June 30th will backfire. NUT and ATL teachers have already shown in their overwhelming majorities for strike action that, this time, we are going to stand up for ourselves - and the NAHT Heads Union (having already, if too briefly, made a stand on SATs last year) has also made clear that it will join teachers in its own ballot for strike action to defend pensions.

Gove's strike-breaking instructions to Local Authority leaders include reminding schools that "there are no maximum general pupil-teacher ratios set out in law; with the exception of the infant class size limit" and that "schools should deploy all available staff and consider the full range of local resources available to them, both from within the school staff and the wider school community to ensure that wherever possible they remain open".

In other words, "Stick anyone you can in front of classes on June 30, no matter how large and unsafe the class sizes, to help me break a strike so that we can rob teachers of their pensions"

But as Christine Blower has rightly reminded Mr Gove: ‘It is a legal duty for key managers in schools to ensure the health and safety of their pupils. If there is insufficient teaching staff to run the school effectively and safely then the head should consider closure very seriously.  Head teachers need to bear in mind that staff members of other TUC affiliated unions do not have to take on the work of those teachers who have taken strike action. Furthermore, it is unlawful for schools to employ agency staff to undertake work that would have been done by teachers striking.’

Regrettably, a few Heads are putting undue pressure on cover supervisors and support staff to cover for striking colleagues. The best way to protect staff will be for UNISON and GMB - and the NASUWT - to ballot as well so that ALL school staff can be on strike together next time.

However, as is clear from the reports of school closures on June 30 coming in from across the country, most Heads are ignoring any instructions to undermine teachers' strike action. I hope that Gove's attacks will only strengthen their resolve to stand firm on pensions - just like Danny Alexander's threats last week helped to spur the NAHT into calling their strike ballot in the first place.

Forest Hill Teachers On Strike

Today was the first day of strike action taken by NUT members at Forest Hill School in Lewisham to protest against the threat of compulsory redundancy.


As our leaflets explained, just as with the pensions dispute nationally, staff are being asked to pay for the mistakes of others. The deficit at Forest Hill is not caused by falling pupil numbers but mistakes made over the costs of sports facilities and the high cost of the PFI contract for the new school building.

The support from staff - and from the public - was tremendous. Over 50 were on strike and over 30 came out on the picket-line at 8am. From there, groups of staff went to leaflet the local train stations and parents at feeder primary schools to get our message across: "Forest Hill is a Good School - Let's Keep it that Way - No Redundancies!"


Everyone reported on the support they received from passers-by and the general public. As one local mum said to me - "Good on you - someone's got to fight" ... and we are!

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

List of schools taking action is growing every day

Reports are flooding in from Lewisham schools where NUT members are confirming that they will be taking strike action. Given that most Lewisham teachers are members of the NUT (and yet others in the ATL), and that the response to the call to take strike action on June 30 has been overwhelming, it's not surprising that many Lewisham schools will be totally closed to pupils - and others only open to a few classes.
We are sorry for the disruption to education - but hope that parents and families will understand why we have no choice but to take action. You are very welcome to join us on the London march to demonstrate against all the cuts!
Below we list the schools where we already know that NUT members are striking - with other reports still to come in. A few schools (marked) will also be holding protest pickets where trade unionists and members of the public are welcome to come along and show their support:
As of June 22: 
Conisborough College, Good Shepherd, Knight's Academy, Knight's Temple Grove, Launcelot, Elfrida, Sedgehill, Downderry, Forster Park, Torridon Infants, Sydenham (with picket), Greenvale, Adamsrill, Forest Hill (with picket), Kilmorie, St.Michaels, Holbeach, Stillness Juniors, Horniman, Kelvin Grove, St.Barts, John Ball, Christ the King (with picket), St.Matthews Academy (with picket), Baring, Lee Manor (with picket), Holy Cross, Sandhurst Infants, Trinity, St.Mary's, Lucas Vale, Lewisham Bridge, St.Stephen's, Clyde, Deptford Park, Sir Francis Drake, Tidemill, Grinling Gibbons, Hatcham Temple Grove, Edmund Waller, John Stainer, Crossways (with picket), Abbey Manor, Prendergast Hilly Fields (with picket), Prendergast Ladywell Fields (with picket) ...

.. plus updates added on June 23:

St. Mary Magdalene's, Haberdashers' Aske's Hatcham College, Sandhurst Juniors, New Woodlands, St.Winifred's Juniors, Coopers Lane, Brindishe Lee, Brindishe Green, Deptford Green, Meadowgate, Brent Knoll, Torridon Juniors ...

... plus updates on June 24: 
Rangefield, Pendragon, Athelney, Bonus Pastor, St.Augustine's, St.John the Baptist, Perrymount, St.Dunstans, St.William of York, Fairlawn, St.Margaret's Lee, Myatt Garden, Addey & Stanhope,  Brockley, Gordonbrock ... (that's over 70 now...)

... plus a few more on June 27:
Marvels Lane, Watergate, St.Saviour's, Dalmain ...

... plus some last reports coming in on June 28:

Rushey Green, Christ Church, Eliot Bank, Childeric, Kender ...

... and news from Andrew in Camden:

I have finished my ring round of reps and can confirm that all Camden schools will be closed next week. We have recruited a further four reps since the ballot closed.

.. and from Tim in Greenwich:

Looking solid - just had a message of support from the local NAHT rep confirming that many schools will be closed

London Rally Gets ready for June 30th

"NUT members are taking strike action..." - the rest of Alex Kenny's opening sentence was drowned out by cheers and applause - even though he was just requesting a message of support to tomorrow's NUT action at Forest Hill School  - before we even got on to discussing the pensions action on the 30th!

The same enthusiastic mood continued through the evening as union leaders, classroom teachers and anti-cuts campaigners spoke to the packed rally at Friends Meeting House.

Young teachers tellingly linked the battle on pensions to their excessive workload. As they put it, after years of working 60 hour weeks, don't the Government think teachers deserve at least a decent pension?

Rob Williams from the NSSN reminded the meeting of Brendan Barber's comments last Autumn when Jeremy Paxman had asked him why British workers weren't taking action like the Greek and French - "we don't do that in Britain". As Rob pointed out to applause - who can say that after the student marches, the March 26th demo - and now the strike action on June 30th?

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

SERTUC Public Services Commitee pledges solidarity for June 30

I was pleased to chair a meeting of the SERTUC Public Services Commitee at TUC Congress House today where members of both striking and non-striking unions were able to exchange reports and information about the preparations and plans for the co-ordinated action on June 30.

One suggestion was for unions to produce local maps of picket lines - and a national map of all the many rallies and marches that will take place on June 30. In the SERTUC region, we already know of over 25 events - from Kings Lynn down to the Isle of Wight.

Where unions have not yet been balloted for action, some will be holding lunchtime rallies to show their solidarity and grievances - such as UNISON members in Waltham Forest.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Lewisham gets ready for June 30

Around 50 teachers, civil servants, lecturers, students and other campaigners paced the Stephen Lawrence room at Goldsmiths College tonight for a joint NUT - PCS Public Meeting to build support for the June 30 strike action.

Chris Baugh, PCS Assistant General Secretary tore apart the lie that the attacks on our pensions - and the rest of the Government's cuts - were an economic necessity. Most of the annual deficit could be wiped away simply by the annual losses in tax avoidance and evasion.

Speaking for the NUT, I outlined the growing number of schools confirming that they were taking action in Lewisham and called on parents and trade unionists to join us on the day as we gathered outside the Town hall in Catford before taking the train up to Charing Cross for the all-London march and rally.

Goldsmiths Students Union explained how they would be organising a mini-bus to visit the schools, colleges and civil service workplace on the morning of the strike.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

NUT STRIKE ACTION Questions and Answers

To help teachers make their way through it, I have broken down the National Union's FAQ document into 'bite-size' chunks - plus a few local additions - and posted it on the Lewisham NUT website.

HAVE A LOOK FOR THESE QUESTIONS and ANSWERS: (UPDATE: Now updated for November 30!)

1 - why is this the right time to act ?
2 - what do we tell the Head about June 30 ?
3 - what if there are only a few NUT members ?
4 - can non-members join the strike ?
5 - can I strike if I didn't vote in the ballot ?
6 - do NUT members HAVE to strike ?
7 - what about supply teachers ?
8 - can I get in trouble for taking strike action ?
9 - Maternity Pay and Strike Action
10 - should schools close to pupils on June 30 ?
11 - Picket Lines
12 - what do I do when I take strike action ?
13 - what if my school has a trip planned for June 30 ?
14 - how much pay will I lose for a day's strike ?
15 - why retiring teachers CAN take strike action

Balls by name...

Isn't it strange how politicians and the media are suddenly all aware of our concerns over pensions - could it be that our strike ballot is making them take note at long last?

Danny Alexander's less than subtle threats have only confirmed what we knew all along - that the Government weren't taking the pensions negotiations seriously. That's why we are absolutely right to take strike action now - to make them think again.

Ed Balls advice this morning that taking action is 'falling into a trap' is, I'm afraid, also nonsense. As Mark Serwotka rightly said on the BBC this morning, what exactly does he think that we should do?

It's quite clear that this Government won't listen to reasoned argument. Unfortunately, neither did Ed Balls' previous Labour Government. After all it's ex-Labour Minister John Hutton that's now leading these attacks on pensions (just like ex-Labour Health Secretary Milburn is complaining that Cameron has retreated on health privatisation!!).

No, it was the threat of joint action in 2005-6 that forced the last Labour Government to retreat over their attacks on pensions - leading to the agreement that the Con-Dems are now trying to rip-up. Once again, we need to take joint action to persuade Ministers to retreat and to negotiate a serious agreement rather than impose a pensions robbery.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Please send support messages to Forest Hill NUT strike

NUT members at Forest Hill School in Lewisham will be taking strike action over the threatened compulsory redundancy of an English teacher on Thursday June 23rd.

Usefully for schools preparing for June 30, the Head has already had to confirm the closure of the school to pupils, telling parents that this is based on:

"A risk assessment in relation to Health and Safety with the reduced number of staff in school on the day", and
"The fact that the vastly reduced staffing will prevent us from delivering an acceptable curriculum offer on the day".

Obviously, this dispute is quite separate from the June 30 pensions action and Forest Hill NUT members are keen that this dispute is not 'lost' amongst the broader pensions action.

However, there are important similarities. Just as with the pensions dispute nationally, staff are being asked to pay the price for the financial mistakes of others.

The deficit at Forest Hill is not down to falling rolls but mistakes made over the sports centre and playing fields and the high cost of the PFI contract agreed for the new building.

As the press release on the Lewisham NUT website http://local.teachers.org.uk/lewisham/ explains "While teachers’ pensions are being cut by linking them to the lowest CPI inflation index, the PFI contractors are guaranteed annual charge increases based on the highest RPIX index – charges which the school has to pay. It was the Council’s officers that were largely responsible for negotiating this contract – and it is the Council that must now also take responsibility for sorting out the financial mess that they have created. It certainly should not be students and staff who have to pay for their mistakes.

Please send messages of support to Lea Bonnell, School NUT Representative on leabonnell4@hotmail.com and/or to Lewisham NUT on secretary@lewisham.nut.org.uk

Friday, 17 June 2011

NUT answers Danny Alexander - the NAHT answer with a strike ballot!

The press release below was the National NUT's response to the rubbish spouted by Danny Alexander today as he attempted desperately to cut across the growing momentum for strike action to defend pensions - and to defeat the whole of the Government's cuts package.

His attempts to argue that these cuts are economically necessary are answered by the ruinous state of Greece. Cuts may please the speculators but they do nothing to help growth - they just cut the market further and invite yet more cuts.

Neither will we let his attempts at 'divide-and-rule' succeed. Robbing our pensions will do nothing to help private-sector pensioners. If Danny Alexander really cared about the way that private pension schemes have been attacked by greedy employers, he would leave public-sector schemes alone and, instead,  reverse the pensions robbery in the private sector.

But the best answer to Alexander came from the NAHT (Headteachers) Executive who unanimously voted to ballot for strike action!

NATIONAL NUT PRESS RELEASE:
Commenting on the outline given by Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander of the Government’s position on public sector pensions, Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said;
“Danny Alexander's statement confirms what the NUT has been saying all along. The Government is not, and never was, taking our pensions negotiations seriously.
“This is the ‘offer’ that the Government is making to teachers: pay 50% more for your pension, and then when you retire at 68, your pension will be indexed only to the lower CPI measure of inflation.
“In other words, there is no shift at all from the Government’s original position – we must pay more, work longer and get less.
“The Teachers’ Pension Scheme is viable, a fact the Government is completely ignoring. The agreement reached in 2007 meant teachers pay more for their pensions, the normal pension age has been raised to 65 for new entrants and employer contributions have been capped.
“The Government has failed to carry out any valuations of the public sector schemes, which we believe will confirm the National Audit Office view that their costs are falling because of reforms already in place.
“The proposed unjustified increases in pension contributions will result in many teachers simply opting out of a scheme they can no longer afford. This will have disastrous consequences for both the individual and society. Fewer people will have any interest in going into an extremely demanding profession should these reforms go ahead.
“The Government has already broken its promise to protect accrued rights, despite what Danny Alexander has said today, by changing pensions indexation and cutting payments to those already retired and about to retire.
“The Government believes it can railroad over our negotiations and over the facts. It is for this reason the NUT had no option but to ballot for strike action. We cannot stand back and see these unnecessary attacks on public sector pensions happen.
“It is not a case of insulating the public sector but defending what is right and fair.”

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Tidemill Parents Question Lack of Open Accounting

Press release 16th June 2011: Parents Demand Open Accounting

Following an urgent request from concerned parents in her constituency,
Joan Ruddock Labour MP for Lewisham, Deptford has written to the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, asking him to delay approval of any change in Tidemill School's status, pending independent scrutiny by the LEA of the school's existing arrangements for managing its finances. The school's accounts were last audited in early 2009.

The year-long
Deptford Says No campaign was started by parents of children attending the primary school in Deptford, South London, in response to 'SuperHead" Mark Elms' plans to turn the school into an academy. Last year, they succeeded in obtaining an extension to the consultation period and uncovered a significant miscalculation in the financial figures upon which the original proposal was based; however, a reworked application was recently approved by the school's governors and now awaits Gove's consent to proceed.
A spokesperson for Deptford Says No explained that the campaign has been struggling to achieve the sort of transparency and clarity about the background to the move to which she felt parents and the wider community were entitled. When information was not forthcoming directly from the school, the campaign enlisted the help of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Commissioner in order to gain access to the minuted records of the school's Board of Governors and Finance Committee meetings. In their letter to Joan Ruddock, they report that, on the basis of the documentation so far provided:

There would appear to be no audit trail of the decision to award Mark Elms substantial bonuses in 2009 and 2010. Given the increased budgetary autonomy enjoyed by academies, [...] there is significant cause for concern that the current arrangements for the school's governance may not be fit for purpose.

In fact the school's Chair of Governors, Keith Geary, has recently informed the FOI that the decisions in question were taken by a select group of governors and not minuted.

One parent commented:
Although there has been a consultation process, I don't think that our views have been properly listened to. A lot of concerns we have, as parents have still not been addressed. We are struggling to get the answers we need, especially in respect of the money involved. Tidemill is an outstanding school already, with a great mix of kids from all parts of the local community, so who exactly is going to benefit if it becomes an academy? Whose interests are being served here? It's a big step, and as far as I can see, once it's happened it will be irreversible.

The campaign can be contacted via the website: academies.sayingno.org
 

Southwark united for action on June 30

I was pleased to be able to go straight from the NUT Executive to report our decision to call strike action on June 30 at a joint public meeting held in Southwark last night.

I shared the platform with speakers from the UCU, PCS and the local Pensioners' Action Group.

Zita Holbourne from the PCS reported their vote in support of action. They will be joining with us in a day's strike on June 30, followed by a month's overtime ban in their dispute over civil service pensions, pay and jobs.

Doris, a retired teacher, called for unions to link-up with those strugggling on a state pension of just £102 per week - and also hit by the change from RPI to CPI indexation.

Sean Vernell from UCU pointed out that the pensions of Senior Directors were on average £333,000 a year - compared to just £5,000 for a public-sector worker.

I summed up the meeting by calling for all present to build for the maximum turnout on June 30, and for those unions not yet balloted to put maximum pressure on their leaderships to be joining us in even wider strike action in the Autumn. A 'Classroom Teacher' parents' leaflet that I had distributed went down well - to get out the message that our fight on pensions is part of a wider fight against cuts.

The mood of all those present was firm and determined. If this is repeated across London, then we can be confident of a huge show of strength - backed by RMT action aginst victimisation of a tubeworker as well as possible protest action by Prison Officers - on June 30.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

STRIKE CONFIRMED for 30 June 2011

The NUT Executive has just voted unanimously that "discontinuous strike action should commence with a day's action on Thursday, 30 June 2011".

As NUT General Secretary, Christine Blower, declared, our ballot result had been a "spectacular success". The ATL are also delighted with the result of their first-ever national strike ballot.

The Executive paid tribute to everyone who has worked so hard to achieve this overwhelming majority for action. We now need to work just as hard to make sure that June 30 is a huge show of united union strength and clear opposition to the proposed robbery of our pensions.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

A Message to Parents

Teachers in the NUT and ATL unions have voted by huge majorities to take strike action to defend their pensions from Government cuts.

No teacher takes strike action lightly and we are sorry that children’s education will be disrupted.

However, the scale of the attacks on our pay and pensions has left us without any other choice.

THEY WANT TO STEAL OUR PENSIONS …
The Government wants to make teachers:
* PAY MORE: Take-home pay would be cut for many teachers by around £100 a month
* GET LESS PENSION: Government plans mean teachers could have their pensions cut in half
* RETIRE OLDER: They want to make teachers work until 67 or 68 to claim what they have earned

… TO HELP PAY FOR THEIR MISTAKES
If teachers are being asked to pay more into their pension scheme, why will they end up getting less when they retire? Because the extra money isn’t going to pay for pensions at all.

No, like the rest of the cuts, the Government wants to steal our money to help them pay off the bankers’ gambling debts. They want to impose an extra ‘tax’ on teachers while the speculators who got us into this mess get away with billions in unpaid taxes.

THESE CUTS ARE BAD FOR EDUCATION
Forcing teachers to work on until they are 68 cannot be good for education. How can it be right to leave grandparents in front of classes while school leavers and young graduates struggle to find a job?

Pensions are one of the benefits that attract qualified graduates into teaching. Attacks on pensions will do the opposite. We need high quality schools and public services, not cuts and privatisation.

SO LET’S UNITE TOGETHER AGAINST THE CUTS
We know that many parents and other trade unionists are facing exactly the same robbery. Whether it’s your benefits, your job, your local library or hospital, we’re all being asked to pay for a crisis that was none of our making. We also know that these cuts to our jobs, pay and pensions will do nothing to help improve the economy. With even less in our pockets to spend, these cuts will just make things worse.

We also understand that teachers may be better-off than some others in the communities we work in. But most teachers only retire on a small pension already. Cutting our pensions won’t help save anybody else’s job or pay. It won’t restore the disgraceful cuts that have been made to private sector pensions.

If we are defeated, it won’t just be teachers that lose out. It will only encourage the Government to carry on cutting everything else too. But, if we force them back, other campaigns are more likely to win too!

SUPPORT OUR RALLIES & MARCHES ON JUNE 30
If you have to take a day off work because your child’s school is closed, we apologise. But don’t stay at home - bring your family to one of the joint union rallies and protest with us against ALL the cuts!

A great result - June 30 will be huge!

QUESTION: If, in 2008 48,217 NUT members voted YES to national strike action and thousands of schools were closed by the action, what will happen on June 30 after ballots where 79,259 NUT members and 22,840 ATL members voted YES - over twice as many?? 
ANSWER: - work it out yourself!
(.. not forgetting the PCS and UCU too...)

NUT Pension Ballot Results

218,730 members were balloted - excluding NUT members who are not in the Teachers' Pension Scheme like supply teachers, school advisers and retired members. There were 69 spoiled papers.

Total number of ballot papers returned:
86,246 (turnout 40%)
Number voting ‘YES’ 79,259
Number voting ‘NO’ 6,918

Percentage voting ‘YES’ 92%

NATIONAL NUT PRESS RELEASE:

Today, (Tuesday 14 June), the NUT announced overwhelming endorsement by its members for strike action to defend teachers’ pensions. In the NUT’s strike ballot 92% voted in favour of strike action with a turnout of 40%

We will be campaigning alongside the ATL who have had similar strong results in their ballot of members.

The NUT executive will be meeting tomorrow to take the formal decision on a day of national strike action planned for 30 June.

The NUT believes that our pensions are fair and affordable. The Government wants teachers to pay more, work longer, and get less. They are press ing ahead with unnecessary reforms despite the changes already made to the Teachers’ Pension Scheme in 2007.

The National Audit Office has confirmed that public sector pension costs are falling as expected due to the reforms already in place. Teacher s are already paying more, the normal pension age has been raised to 65 for new entrants and employer contributions have been capped.

The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee has also been highly critical of the Government’s pension strategy which they say is based more on public perception of public sector pensions than on actual figures.

Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said:
“The Government’s unnecessary attack on public sector pensions has convinced NUT members that there is no alternative but to support strike action.
“It is disgraceful that the Government is press ing ahead with its reforms which will affect teachers’ pensions. The Government knows that they are affordable. This is a policy which has nothing to do with economics and everything to do with politics.
“The NUT is party to the TUC negotiations with Government to protect public sector pensions. It is not too late for common sense to prevail and for these unnecessary changes to be stopped. It is in no one’s interest to create a whole new swathe of people who are a burden on the taxpayer in old age.
“The NUT alongside TUC affiliated unions will do all we can to ensure fair pensions for all.”

Monday, 13 June 2011

Wandsworth NUT Gets Ready for Action

For the last few weeks we've been concentrating on getting the ballot won. If the ballot result allows the NUT Executive to confirm the June 30 action when we meet on Wednesday, we must then be ready to go all out to build for the biggest turnout possible.

Wandsworth NUT met tonight to discuss what needs to be done. I was there to introduce the discussion as a member of the National Executive. Here are some of the ideas that we came up with:

1. Agree with other striking unions where to assemble locally to go up to the join union Central London demonstration (assembling in Lincoln's Inn Fields, London WC2A.)

2. Publicise your assembly point - along with any pickets and/or local rallies that parents and other trade unionists can also attend to show solidarity.

3. Get your committee members ready to ring every school rep as soon as the announcement is made. Pass on details of the agreed assembly points etc.

4. Ask reps to:
a. confirm that members will be taking strike action
b. tell their Head that NUT (and ATL) members will be on strike on June 30
c. let the NUT know as soon as possible if their school will be closing to pupils on the day
d. urge members to attend the demo - and whether they would like to join a picket line too

5. Keep updating a list of schools that are definitely taking action/closing to pupils and pass on the numbers to other reps to encourage them to join in too.

6. Write to local Heads to back up the  information that will be sent from the National Union.

7. Write/email to NUT members encouraging them to take part on the day. It might be worth stressing:
a. Not to worry about the usual intimidating letter saying they will be 'in breach of contract' - we will be fully protected by a legal strike ballot.
b. That NUT advice has changed since the last change to pension regulations. We do NOT now have to advise teachers close to retirement to refrain from strike action.
c. You can take strike action whether you voted in the ballot or not - in fact non-members can join the NUT right up to June 30 in order to take action.
d. Some areas may also add details of any local hardship funds collected to help those who will really struggle with the loss of a day's pay for taking action on June 30.

8. Produce and distribute a leaflet to parents explaining why we are going on strike - Wandsworth NUT have already drafted one.

Look out for news on the ballot result and the NUT Executive's decision - then let's build a real show of strength on June 30!

Sunday, 12 June 2011

All out to stop the pensions robbery!

This Government thought they could get away with daylight robbery - but we're going to prove them wrong!

They want to steal away our services, our jobs, our NHS – everything that we have won over decades of struggle.

In particular, they want to steal our pensions, the money that we put aside from our salary to ensure at least some kind of a decent retirement.

These increased contributions won't be going to pay for retired colleagues – even the Government's own figures show that the costs of public sector pensions are falling - but to pay for Government debt.

They want to impose an extra tax on public sector workers – when the bankers who got us into this mess are getting away with billions in unpaid taxes.

The message in our campaign to win the strike ballot has been clear - either we strike or we'll end up paying more to get less pension -  and be told to struggle on in work until we're 68!

What kind of education is it where children will have to wait for their teacher’s stair-lift to arrive before class starts?!

What's the logic in keeping over 60's in work while school leavers and university graduates are left without jobs to do?

In schools, all the signs are that the ballot will be won and that ATL and NUT members will be on strike on June 30th. Unfortunately, we won't be joined by the NASUWT, not by support staff unions.

Their leaders have told their members to wait - to wait for the outcome of negotiations. But that caution has only encouraged the Government.

That's why they felt bold enough to come to the negotiating table with even worse proposals. Their plans for  career-average pensions on a miserly accrual rate would be a shattering blow to teacher pensions.

But we need to show the Con-Dems that they have made a serious misjudgement. The mounting anger of teachers on so many issues - on pay, bullying , workload, cuts, Academies - means that they are even more determined to make a stand on pensions.

Unions need to get our message across to parents and the public that "our fight is your fight" - that a defeat for the Government over pensions will be a blow against their whole savage cuts programme.

If we stand together, and mobilise the power of the union movement, it won’t be us but the Government that will have to retreat – just as the last Labour Government had to over their proposed pension 'reforms'.

100,000’s on the march on 26/3 sent a clear warning to the Con-Dems; 800,000 on strike on 30/6 will really start to make them think.

Cable may be making threats against the union movement - but they show his fear - fear that the trade union movement is starting to get organised.

It will take more than one day's action in June to force them back – which is why we need to escalate and extend our action in Autumn. We need every union to be put under such pressure that they have to ballot too – so that we can build from 800,000 to 4 million on strike together.

Together, we can build a mighty movement that can force this Government to retreat – on pensions, jobs and all their attacks.

Austerity and Anger in Greece

Apostolis Kasimeris, one of the leaders of the OASA bus workers’ union in Athens, gave this speech to the National Shop Stewards Network Conference in London on June 11 2011: 
Dear brothers and sisters,
I want to thank you for your invitation and to stress how important it is for me to be able to speak to British workers – workers who have provided excellent examples of determined class struggles. In particular, struggles like those of the Miners and against the Poll Tax have inspired many of us abroad.
Over the last two years, the Greek working class has faced a massive attack on its living standards and rights. It has been an unprecedented attack, worse even than that faced by the British working class at the time of Thatcher.
The Social-Democrat government of PASOK, together with the EU and the IMF, have cut the basic net wage from 670 € to 520 €. Our salaries are lower but the cost of living in Greece is no lower than that in Britain. Prices for food and clothing are the same. Petrol now costs 1.7 euros a litre. Neither do we have any rent subsidies or low-cost council housing for the low-paid and unemployed.
In the public sector, where wages are supposed to be better than the private sector, we have seen our wages cut by 30% on average over the last two years. Their plans are to cut them by a further 35% over the next two years. Before the intervention of the EU and the IMF, the take-home pay of a teacher with 10 years’ experience would only have been around 1300 euros a month. But now pay has been slashed to perhaps just 1000 euros.
At the same time they plan to sack 150,000 public-sector workers over the next 4 years. This is when official unemployment has already reached 800,000 - 16% of the labour force. But real levels of unemployment are about 1 ½ times the official estimates.
They have made huge expenditure cuts on education, health and social services. In our public hospitals, a third of beds have been cut – 13,000 out of 35,000. Many universities are forced to close down for certain periods of time because they cannot pay electricity bills, or in order to save on other costs.
What is the Government’s answer to this desperate crisis?
They are now planning to sell-off all our public utilities – electricity, water, railways, the docks.
They want to smash collective bargaining and change the law to make it easier to sack workers.
They are raising taxes – both direct and indirect. VAT has gone up by 4% - to 23%.
Pensions have been massively cut. The retirement age has been raised to 67. But, even then, you can only get a full pension if you have completed 40 years of work with paid social insurance.
I will give you an example to explain the terrible results of these attacks. Two months ago, Athens council workers occupied the city hall for 26 days, fighting for their jobs. Among them was a contract worker aged 72 who had no option but to continue working as he had not completed the working time needed to qualify for a full pension. Even if he manages to work on for long enough, his pension will only be 400 euros!
The attack of the IMF, EU and European Central Bank has no end. After a year of savage attacks they have now concluded that the huge cuts are still not deep enough. They are imposing a second ‘memorandum’ demanding further attacks on Greek workers.
Why is all this happening? Supposedly, in order to pay for the sovereign debt. This debt was created by the piling up of annual deficits. But who created these deficits? Various EU economic ‘experts’ claim that the debts were created because Greek workers were lazy and corrupt; because “we lived beyond our means”. But who has been living beyond their means? The one million Greek workers, nearly 25% of the labour force, who earn just 600 to 700 euros a month? The pensioners, 65% of whom earn less than 600 euros? The unemployed, who are only paid unemployment benefit of around 400 euros for 12 months before it stops altogether? 
We have been facing repeated waves of austerity for the past 25 years. Austerity policies began back in 1985, in order, supposedly, to raise the competitiveness of the Greek economy. And the result is this new wave of barbaric attacks, worse than all the previous years of austerity put together.
The people who are lazy and corrupt, liars and thieves, are those in power, the ruling elite together with their friends the big capitalists, not Greek workers and pensioners!
They created the deficits, they created the debts. The governments did this consciously, particularly over the past two decades, by transferring wealth to the rich and to big capital, by using the state budget as a conveyor belt.
How was this done? Let me give you a simple example. In the mid ‘90s taxation on corporate profits was 45%. Today it is 20%. But even this 20% is only about 10% in reality. The capitalists receive ludicrous donations, “incentives”, and all sorts of hand-outs so that they can claim back about half of the taxes they have paid.
Government revenue was thus continuously undermined. This led to deficits, which in turn led to loans to cover them. But they want us to pay for them.
Here’s another example of how they are trying to make workers pay for their crisis. Since the start of the banking crisis in 2008, Greek governments, both PASOK and “New Democracy”, have provided the Greek bankers with hot cash or “guarantees” to a total of 108 billion euros. This equals about one-third of the total sovereign debt.
Where do Governments find such huge sums when they are on the verge of bankruptcy? They borrow them – from the EU, the ECB and the IMF.  Then they squeeze it out of the Greek working class.
But take a note of the following. They have handed out 108 billion euros in cash or guarantees to the Greek banks when the total value of the Greek banking system on the Greek stock exchange is only about 15 billion euros. In short, the Greek government could have easily bought the whole banking sector, seven times over! But no! Why? Because if they did, they would be admitting that the private sector is hopeless, that capitalism is catastrophic, and that the bankers are parasites.
Now workers are told that, if the Government don’t get loans from the EU and the IMF – under the harsh terms imposed by the EU and the IMF – they won’t have money to pay for wages and pensions. Again, this is lies.
The only reason that they need new loans is to pay back the previous loans. For example, over the ten years between 2000 and 2009, the Greek governments received loans totalling 485 billion euros. Over the same period they paid back the lenders 450 billion euros. So, in 10 years, only 35 billion euros went into the economy. The vast majority just went back to the lenders, into the pockets of the bankers who make loans to the Greek state, into the pockets of the Greek, German, French Swiss, and British bankers. These parasites borrow money from the ECB at 1 – 1 ½ % interest rates and lend it to the Greek state at interest rates of between 5 and 7 %!
According to a recent poll, one year after the first IMF – EU memorandum was applied,
34% of Greek households live below the poverty line,
50% will not have sufficient heating next winter,
45% do not feed themselves properly,
29% are not in a position to pay their utility bills
So it is not a surprise that there is massive anger in Greek society. This is reflected in struggles.
At the moment, there are strikes taking place on a daily basis. There is a demonstration in the centre of Athens nearly every day – often two or three.
But these struggles have not been able to achieve victories. This is because Union leaderships have not been carrying out struggles with the intention of winning them. That’s because the overwhelming majority of union leaderships are under the control of the two political parties which alternate in power in Government, PASOK and New Democracy.
These union leaders call strikes but without a clear timescale, and without any clear plan – just to let off steam. For example, when the government recently announced the closure of nearly 2000 schools, the response of the Teachers’ Union was to call two 24hr strikes - but without any  serious plan to continue action in order to stop the closures.
What is worse is that these Unions never coordinate the struggles between them. Every sector fights it out on its own. But, in the present period, no sector on its own can defeat the government, the EU and the IMF – who all work together. The trade union leaders know this very well.
The position taken by the national leaderships of the TU movement – the TUC, in both the private and in the public sector, has been particularly scandalous. Compared to what is happening in the rest of Europe, seven 24-hour general strikes last year and three this year, may seem huge. But, given the traditions of the Greek working class and, above all, compared to the scale of the attacks the Greek working class is facing, this is far from being enough.

Working people understand the treacherous role of the Greek TUC leadership and are boiling with anger. Last year, on the day of a general strike, the TUC leader Panagopoulos tried to make a speech at the workers’ rally but was physically attacked by strikers. He was chased through the crowds, but no trade unionist stepped in to defend him. Since then, he has only been seen in public accompanied by six bodyguards.
It isn’t just that the trade union leaders don’t respond to the needs of the situation – it is also that they systematically sabotage the development of the struggles.
Take the example of my Union, the Bus Workers’ Union of Athens and Piraeus, which has about 6,000 members. When the government began its attack against us last December, the leadership of the Union, under the control of PASOK and ND, tried to justify why they were not calling for militant strike action. Their excuse was to blame workers, saying that they were not willing to fight.
But, when the brutal cuts were announced, they were forced to call for strike action so as not to be completely exposed. Strike action took place over a period of about 3 months. But the leadership was not really determined, there was no plan of action, no escalation, and above all there was absolutely no attempt to coordinate the struggle with other sections of the wider public sector that were also under attack.
Towards the end of February, the majority in the leadership decided that it was time to call off the action. They launched a blatant coup d’├ętat against the Union. They refused to call executive committee meetings, they refused to go the meetings called by other members of the Union executive, and they hid, so that a mass-meeting of the bus-workers would not be called. They knew that if it had been, it would have voted in favour of continuing the struggle.
They then went ahead with a fake ‘referendum’ planned to formalise the decision to stop the strikes. It wasn’t only against the Unions’ constitution, it was also against the law, since they forged the signatures of other members of the Executive Committee, in order to achieve the necessary majority required to call a referendum. All this was done in order to disappoint, to demoralise, to break the will of the bus workers to fight.
There had been three months of struggle. Our action inevitably caused a lot of disruption to the people of Athens and Piraeus who used public transport. But, despite this, they were on our side. Right up to the end of our dispute, 60% of people were in favour of the strike, despite all the massive government propaganda conducted through the mass media. They tried to present the bus workers as evil people determined to make ordinary people suffer so as not to lose our privileges. The public support showed their understanding of the situation and their class solidarity.
For these Trade Union leaders there is only one word: traitors. If my sector had been the only sector which had been sabotaged and betrayed, the damage would not be too great. But this is what they do everywhere.
Despite defeats like ours, the Greek working class will continue to fight. It has no other choice because the attacks that we face will continue and they will be immense.
The last development in the struggles of Greek society has been the movement of the “enraged”. They have followed the example of the Spanish ‘Indignados’ and inspired by the revolutions in the Arab world. Last Sunday, without any exaggeration, 500,000 assembled in the central square in Athens. This was perhaps the biggest gathering of people since 1981.
Greek society is at boiling-point. But in order for this anger to find a way forward and for our struggles to win, we have to do everything we can to rebuild our Trade Union movement.
Trade union organisations must pass into the hands of the rank and file. To be democratically controlled by the membership, the struggles must be in the hands of the movement itself.
At the same time we need to rebuild the political organisations of the working class, because today’s mass left parties have lost the plot. They have shown themselves to be absolutely and entirely inadequate for the tasks of this period. This is one of the reasons why in the most recent polls abstention has reached the unprecedented level for Greece of 50.9%, with support for the mass left parties stagnant.
These are the tasks that we have ahead of us. For these we shall fight in the next period with all our strength.
But there is another task that we must never forget. This is internationalism. This is not a struggle of the Greeks alone, but also of the Portuguese, the Spanish, the Irish, the British and more, because we are all being attacked at the same time.
All over Europe, big capital is united against us, but the working class is not able to put up a united resistance. This is the fault of the leadership. Our strength is immense but it is not put into action. We have to make sure that workers begin to realise their strength and fight together, in united struggles, across the continent.
Let me finish with a message of solidarity for all those taking action on June 30. Get out on the picket lines, on the streets and demonstrations, and show Cameron that, united in action, working people will defeat their attacks.

NSSN Conference builds support for united action

A packed hall at the South Camden Community School saw over 300 stewards and workplace reps from unions and workplaces across Britain gather for the fifth annual conference of the National Shop Stewards Network.

As I was able to say in my contribution in the opening session on the pensions battle, the hall may be full today but on June 30th, like thousands more schools, it will be empty if teachers , civil servants and lecturers walk out in united strike action.

The afternoon session heard from some of the blacklisted workers in the rail and construction industries and the battles to stop employers attacking trade union organisation.

The day finished with a rousing contribution from a Greek bus workers' leader who spelt out exactly the cost to working people when the IMF and EU demand 'austerity'. In the last two years, public sector wages have been cut by 30% on average - and the plans are to reduce them by a further 35% over the next two years! A teacher, perhaps already earning only 1300 euros a month before the cuts, would now only take home about 1000 euros.

Already the crisis in Greek state schools means that most parents have to find money to pay for their children to attend private 'frontistiria' for extra lessons. Typically, this might cost a family 500 euros a month out of their declining wages.

The retirement age is already 67 - but to get a full pension, a teacher would have to work on until their seventies. One of the engineers in his bus garage is still having to work at 78. As I said in my speech, if the Con-Dems get away with the same attacks here, classes will have to wait until the teachers' stair-lift has reached the end of the corridor!

But the message from the Conference was clear - we are not going to allow the Con-Dem Government to take away everything that we have won over decades - whether it be pensions, jobs, the NHS, or trade union rights. June 30th will be another important step forward in building united opposition to their savage cuts.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Building unity in action between NUT and PCS unions

I was pleased to be able to take the opportunity to build links between the NUT and PCS unions when I spoke at the AGM of the Eastern Region of the PCS in Cambridge yesterday.

PCS reps present were keen to pick up some of our suggestions on how we were building for a strong YES vote in our strike ballot - and even more keen - once our ballots are won -  to be taking joint strike action on June 30, alongside colleagues in ATL and UCU as well.

As I concluded, this isn't just a battle about pensions, it's about making sure that the Con-Dems don't succeed in pushing aside the force that has the greatest power to stand up to their attacks on jobs and services - the trade union movement.

As two of the best organised and fighting unions in the public sector, that means the PCS and NUT jointly have a huge responsibility on our shoulders - but it is a challenge that we can be confident that our reps and members will rise to.

There were lots of reports of plans for strike rallies and marches on June 30 right across the Eastern region. I reported on our plans for a march in London from Lincolns Inn Fields to Westminster Central Hall.

June 30 can be a real show of strength against the Con-Dem cuts - let's make sure it is!

Thursday, 2 June 2011

COME TO THE NSSN CONFERENCE ON JUNE 11th

NSSN and Anti-Academies Conferences in London

There are two important Conferences taking place in London on Saturday June 11th - come to one or even both!

Anti-Academies campaigns will be discussed at the SERTUC/AAA Conference: One year on from the Academies Act being held from 10.30am – 3.30pm, Congress House, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3LS

But don't miss the chance to plan and discuss united action on pensions - and beyond - at the National Shop Stewards Network Conference 2011 "Strike together to defend jobs and pensions". Speakers include: Alex Gordon RMT President and Janice Godrich PCS President. I will also update Conference on the latest from the NUT's struggle on pensions.

The Conference takes place between 11:30am and 4:00pm at South Camden Community School, London NW1 1RG. Registration: will open at 10:30am

Make June 30 a massive show of strength

TENS OF THOUSANDS OF NUT AND ATL MEMBERS have been voting to support a programme of discontinuous action to defend teachers’ pensions. Positive responses from schools around the country give every indication that the ballots will be won. That will allow unions to call a first national strike on Thursday June 30, joined in action by civil servants in PCS and UCU members in many colleges as well.

We have no alternative but to take action. Leaked reports have confirmed that the Government has made no attempt to reach any genuine agreement in their supposed ‘negotiations’. Instead, they have tabled plans for career-average schemes that are worse than anything that even Lord Hutton suggested - they could mean slashing teachers’ pensions in half!

It’s clear that this Government of millionaires wants to destroy our pensions scheme - and smash the public sector unions that stand in the way of their plans to slash jobs and cut and privatise education, health and all our public services.

Make no mistake, we are in for a serious battle that may well require a series of escalating actions, hopefully bringing others on board who have mistakenly stood aside like the NASUWT as well. But, together we are strong. It is the Con-Dems that are divided. We can force them to retreat. That’s why June 30 needs to be a massive show of our strength and determination to stand firm until we win!

Get ready for action:
1. Chase up the last strike votes
We’re going to get a big YES vote - but let’s make sure we get as big a turnout as we can too. Talk to your colleagues, give a reminder at staff briefing. Ballot papers have to be returned by June 14 at the latest.

2. Talk to NASUWT members
The NASUWT’s failure to ballot this term could be used by some Heads to keep schools open on June 30. Rather than go into work, NASUWT members can join the NUT for free up until June 30 and join the strike.

3. Encourage other schools too
Some school groups - perhaps where there is no active rep or in Academies with bullying managers - may not be confident about taking action. Local Associations need to make contact with all schools and reassure members that - once action is sanctioned by our legal ballots - they have every right to take part in this national strike.

4. Organise a hardship fund
A day’s pay is a small loss compared to what we stand to lose from our pensions. However, a hardship fund can avoid any colleague feeling they can’t strike because their finances are already too tight.

5. Ask Heads to close schools
NAHT and ASCL Headteacher unions have supported the joint “Save our Pensions - Now is the Time” poster. We hope that most Heads will agree that schools will need to close if NUT & ATL members are on strike. Staff in other unions cannot be asked to do any work that would have been done by their striking colleagues.

6. Get everyone involved on 30/6
June 30th will be a day for everyone to stand together in action - not stay at home to catch up on your marking! Even if your school is closed to pupils, a morning picket line is a good way to get everyone together - and to make an impact locally - at the start of the day’s activities.

7. Join your local strike rally
Striking unions - NUT, ATL, PCS and UCU - will be putting plans together for local and regional rallies. Just like March 26, these will hit the headlines and raise everyone’s confidence for the ongoing battle. Parents, anti-cuts campaigners and representatives of other unions and should be invited to take part too.

8. Get our message to parents
We need to leaflet parents to say sorry for disruption but to explain:
* Our fight is your fight - forcing the Con-Dems back on pensions helps defeat the rest of their cuts too.
* A fight for education - should classes be taught by a 68-year old?
* A fight for jobs - young workers will have no jobs but grandparents will be forced to stay in work.