On June 30, tens of thousands of NUT members - alongside our colleagues in the ATL, UCU & PCS - answered the Government's disgraceful attacks on our pensions with a determined show of strength.
But June 30 didn't just raise the confidence of those who took strike action, it also raised the sights of millions more workers who wanted to know why they weren't standing up for themselves too! It raised the pressure on every union that was still to declare for action to come on board as well - and that pressure is having an effect!
Friday’s NUT Executive received welcome news of other teacher unions announcing that they were opening ballots that could allow them to co-ordinate strike action with us in November.
ATL, PCS, UCU - like the NUT - are already ready and able to call further action without having to hold any further ballot. The NAHT is shortly to open an action ballot - as are UCAC in Wales and the EIS in Scotland. The NASUWT is also preparing for a ballot for a programme of strike action and action short of strike action to take place “this term”.We also await announcements from other unions - including UNISON and GMB.
June 30 - with four unions taking national action - had a big impact. Action across the public sector will have an even greater effect. Of course, co-ordination between a range of unions is never straightforward – and strike action may now have to be on a day later in November than first planned. There must certainly be no question of any further delay – and no excuse for any union to avoid co-ordinating action with others.
So let’s find those flags from June 30, dust off the banners, plan together for local rallies, levies and collections, leaflets and stalls. Above all, let’s plan together for united strike action – and let’s not step back until we win.
Return a Pensions Petition From Your School
While we wait for those ballots to take place, seven education unions will all be working together to try and get every one of the 25,000 schools and colleges in England and Wales to return a joint petition calling on Government to withdraw its proposals.
These petitions will be handed in at a mass Lobby of Parliament on October 26 where we also hope that as many schools as possible can send at least one representative. We hope that there will also be agreement that there will be a joint demonstration before the Lobby so that trade unionists can march together to show that we are giving the Government one last chance - or we strike in November!
The NUT Executive agreed to “encourage all divisions to seek joint working over the lobby of parliament and the joint petition”. So approach your colleagues in other teaching and headteacher unions - as well as support staff unions - to start making plans.
Our first aim is to get every school to return the petition. Joint union meetings should be called to explain our arguments, get the petition signed, and to build for the Lobby on October 26.
The NUT hadn’t wanted the Lobby to be called in half-term but some unions were concerned that a mass event on a working-day could be deemed as ‘industrial action’ which they would not be able to take part in before they had completed their ballots.
We know that not every school nationally will be able to attend - but that’s even more reason for London teachers to make sure they are there in force.
The Executive is also encouraging NUT members to attend the TUC march at the Tory Party Conference in Manchester on Sunday October 2nd.
Of course, petitions alone will not shift Government - although a return from every school will certainly send a very clear message. But joint campaigning around the petition will also provide a great opportunity to encourage all those colleagues receiving ballot papers to vote in favour of action - and to call on their unions to co-ordinate with us in united strike action in November - and beyond if required.
What should follow after November?
A massive show of strength from public sector unions will, of course, raise the stakes on both sides. So, while we prepare for joint action in November, the Executive also agreed that we need to plan together for what might have to come next as well.
We agreed to consider plans for subsequent action, perhaps including rolling strike action involving every region. Collections and levies could be used to help build hardship funds to support colleagues on strike. But we must make sure that targeted action doesn’t just involve a minority of members. I will certainly be arguing for plans for further national action as well.
NUT members should discuss amongst themselves and feedback to the Union their views on how we might extend action if the Government refuses to budge.
However, we should be confident that, despite their rhetoric, this Government is much weaker than it pretends to be. A clear plan of co-ordinated action from across the public sector can convince them that they will have to retreat.