Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Langdon dispute: Newham NUT votes 90 - 0 for borough-wide action

Langdon school staff were solidly out on the picket line this morning in their ongoing dispute over workload and bullying management - a dispute now raised to new levels  by the school's attempts to break the action by using supply staff to keep the school open on strike days.

It's hard to stand on a picket-line and see students going into school - even though most were very supportive to their teachers standing outside. But staff morale must have been raised by an unheard of turnout at a special Newham NUT meeting tonight. It was standing room only with 90 in attendance!

The school may have thought that it was onto an easy victory by following Tory advice to recruit supply staff directly to get round the Agency regulations (see previous post http://electmartin1.blogspot.com/2011/11/union-busting-at-langdon-school-threat.html). But if they want to take on the Union, then the Union is ready to respond. As this would now turn the dispute into one with the borough who are presumably issuing the contracts to the strikebreakers, the Union can consider responding with a borough-wide ballot for action  ... and that was what was agreed by tonight's Newham NUT meeting - by 90 votes to 0!

NUT members will be out in force at the London N30 pensions demonstration tomorrow to make sure that everyone there knows about their dispute - and adds their solidarity and support.

Solidarity Message from the CGT Nord - Pas de Calais

Chancellor Osborne has chosen today to announce yet further limits to future pay settlements - meaning our salaries are set to fall further against prices, at the same time as he wants us to pay out more for our pensions.

He also announced that the State Retirement Age is to be 67 from 2026 - meaning that even more of us will be forced to work on until 67 or 68 in order to get our full pension. 
We will give our answer in our millions tomorrow!

To help us on our way, the CGT union federation in the Nord - Pas de Calais region have sent several messages of support via SERTUC:

Message de soutien aux organisations syndicales de Grande Bretagne et à leurs adhérents.

Le Comité Régional Nord Pas de Calais vous apporte son soutien fraternel pour votre journée de grève et de manifestations du 30 Novembre 2011.

Nous soutenons les salariés en luttes pour défendre leur système de retraite et leurs services publics.

Partout en Europe, les salariés, retraités, jeunes et privés d'emploi subissent des mesures d'austérité injustes alors qu'ils ne sont en rien les responsables de la crise.

La solution pour relancer l'économie n'est pas d'attaquer les services publics, de relever l'âge de départ à la retraite, d'augmenter les cotisations sociales ni d'abaisser les pensions.
Au nom du Comité Régional, nous vous adressons tous nos voeux de succès.

Avec vous nous disons :
"Non à l'austérité !
Oui à l'emploi et aux services publics !

Recevez, Cher(e)s Camarades, nos fraternelles salutations.
Comité Régional CGT Nord Pas de Calais

Monday, 28 November 2011

Gove's lies answered by staff at his own school!

The National NUT Press Release below answers the rubbish spouted by Michael Gove in his speech to the Policy Exchange this morning in an attempt to confuse and deceive the public over the November 30 strike.

But Gove's deception clearly isn't working! A BBC News Opinion Poll shows majority support for the action - despite everything that the press and politicians have been spouting: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-15910621

But perhaps Gove's best answer will be when he gets a letter home from his OWN children's  school, St Mary Abbots in Kensington & Chelsea, where Cameron and Gove send their children. The local NUT Secretary, Kieran Parsons,  reports that most teachers at the school will be striking - leaving only two classes open on Wednesday!

The emails have been coming in to all day confirming more and more schools closed to pupils by our action - along with teachers wanting to know where to join the demonstration in London - which will be enormous!
See you there!

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

“This dispute has been created by a Government which is determined to steam roller through pension reform that will irreparably damage teachers’ pensions. The issue has united the teaching profession, as will be demonstrated on November 30. This strike has nothing to with ‘militants’ but everything to do with teachers and head teachers who do not believe the Government is being fair or reasonable.

“In talking about teachers' retirement ages, Michael Gove ignores the fact that those retiring earlier than their new pension age of 68 would face very substantial reductions in their pensions. More significantly, he ignores the fact that working to 68 simply won't be physically possible for many and is not in the interests of either pupils or teachers.

“Michael Gove also misrepresents the cost of teachers' pensions. His figures include the contributions made by teachers and their employers. The cost to the Treasury is far smaller and, as the National Audit Office has confirmed, the cost of teachers' pensions as a whole is already falling due to reforms already made.

“The Education Secretary says that the accrual rate has been improved through DfE lobbying, but what he doesn’t say is that it’s only improved on the Government’s earlier position. It isn’t an improvement on the accrual rate that teachers have on the existing pension scheme.

“Michael Gove's calculator only tells teachers how much they would get under his new scheme. The NUT's calculator tells them what Michael Gove's calculator doesn't - how much extra they will pay, how much longer they will have to work for a full pension and how much they will lose in retirement due to his new scheme.

“The NUT absolutely agrees with Michael Gove that it is not in the best interest for teachers to opt out of the pension scheme. What he clearly fails to understand is that teachers also recognise this fact. The problem lies with the Government’s proposals to make teachers pay considerably more for a pension that will be worth considerably less. No matter how the Government tries to dress up its reforms, for many this is simply not financially feasible.”

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Lewisham Schools Set for Strike Action on Wednesday

UPDATED: MONDAY NOVEMBER 28th: (although there's a few more last-minute additions still to add e.g Pendragon, St.Mary Magdalene and Sandhurst Infants Schools are also closed to students)

Of 75 Lewisham schools where we now have confirmed reports so far, 48 are totally closed to pupils and 25 largely closed to all but one or two classes or year groups. We still know of only 2 small schools that will apparently be largely unaffected.

Staff at six schools have reported that they will be holding picket lines from 7.30 or 8am - Christ the King Sixth Form College, Ladywell Fields, Lee Manor Primary, Sedgehill, St.Matthews Academy and Sydenham Schools. Other staff and supporters will be very welcome to visit them!

NUT members - and staff from other unions - will be gathering outside the Town Hall in Catford from 10 am or meeting Lewisham colleagues at 11.15 at Charing Cross station before going on to the start of the London demonstration in Lincolns Inn Fields at 12.00.

Schools which have reported to the Lewisham NUT Office so far are:
BARINGTotally closed
COOPERS LANETotally closed
DALMAINTotally closed
EDMUND WALLERTotally closed
FOREST HILL SCHOOL                Totally closed
GOOD SHEPHERDTotally closed
HORNIMANTotally closed
KENDERTotally closed
RANGEFIELDMainly closed
RATHFERNTotally closed
SEDGEHILL SCHOOL                  Mainly closed
St JAMES HATCHAMTotally closed
ST WILLIAM OF YORKTotally closed
TRINITY SCHOOL (formerly Northbrook)Totally closed

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Pensions Battlebus takes 'Pensions Justice' message to the public

Today, Saturday November 26th, trade unionists took to the streets of South London in their pensions 'battle bus' to take their message to the public - "Fair Pensions for All!"

Representatives from just some of the twenty-plus different trade unions taking strike action on Wednesday November 30 helped give out leaflets across the boroughs of Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark. ATL, NUT, PCS, UNISON, UCU members - and others - started the tour in Brixton, before going on to Streatham, Catford, Lewisham, Deptford, Peckham and Camberwell.

The photos show that we were joined by Mr Cameron with his 'swag bag' who appealed to the public for donations to his 'save the millionaires' fund. Many passers-by made very clear to the Prime Minister exactly what they thought of him! That determined message will be firmly passed on to the Government when trade union members form schools, council offices, job centres, colleges and many other South London workplaces join the millions who will be on strike across Britain to defend public sector pensions on Wednesday.

Martin Powell-Davies, Lewisham NUT Secretary said;

"We got a great response from the public. Most South Londoners understand that this Government of millionaires is trying to steal away everything that we have won in the past - whether it be pensions, jobs or public services. That's why we are determined to send a clear message to Ministers when we take strike action on November 30 to 'Stop the Pensions Robbery!' "

Hundreds of leaflets were distributed calling for 'Pensions Justice'. A local NUT leaflet explained why we were appealing to the public to support the strike action:

Most teachers won’t be able to do a good job at the age of 68. But we will be forced to work on while our school leavers struggle to find a job vacancy!
Cuts to our jobs, pay and pensions will do nothing to help improve the economy.
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!

* There will be picket lines at a number of workplaces on Wednesday morning. Trade unionists will then be gathering outside the Town Hall in Catford from 10am before taking the train to Charing Cross to join others assembling at 11.15 am. The Lewisham delegations will then join the main London march assembling in Lincolns Inn Fields from midday.

November 30 - if Con-Dems don't retreat, escalate the action

OUR STRIKE ON 30 NOVEMBER is uniting millions of workers in a show of strength not seen in Britain for generations.

Thousands of schools will be closed to pupils as heads, teachers and support staff take action together to defend our pensions from a thieving government that wants us to pay for the chaos caused by unregulated banks and an unfettered market that puts the pursuit of profit before people’s needs.

The experience will lift the confidence of public sector workers to fight on until the pensions robbery is defeated - and to move on to defeat all the other attacks being made to our pay, conditions and public services. It will also lift the confidence of workers across Britain to stand up and join us in a fight for their jobs and services too.

No wonder Ministers have been desperate to try and stop the N30 action taking place ! Having refused any meaningful negotiations for months, they hoped that they could divide and confuse us with their last-minute ‘offer’.  But, steeled by the firm opposition from Left unions like the NUT and PCS, the answer from every union has been the same - ‘thanks, but no thanks’. Thanks - because even these inadequate concessions have exposed the government’s weakness in the face of united trade union opposition. No thanks -  because they still want us to work longer and pay more to get less pension.

The press will do their owners’ bidding and try to turn public opinion against us. But they are not succeeding. When unions have got their message out onto the streets and at the school gates, we have found support. People recognise that money cut from our pensions wouldn’t be going to boost private-sector pensions or state benefits. No, they want to rob our pensions to pay for the bankers’ bailouts  and to lower costs for the privateers buying up public services.

We need to make clear to the Con-Dems  that November 30 is not just a one-off token protest. If they do not back down from their pensions robbery, we will be back with further action in January.

We can’t afford to hesitate and leave it until after Xmas to make any concrete plans. Unions must quickly announce a clear plan and dates for further joint strike action.

No trade unionist can easily afford to lose pay but trade unionists will be ready to carry on the battle - as long as they understand that their leaderships have a serious plan in place to win this struggle.

The key to victory is widespread co-ordinated national action involving as many unions as possible, applying the level of pressure that can force this government into serious negotiations.

Plans for rolling regional joint action being proposed by the NUT can certainly play a part in maintaining momentum. But it would need careful co-ordination with other trade unions to be effective. 

Joint national strike action, bringing everyone together on a day - or even two days of action - remains the key strategy. Unions should certainly consider calling a 48-hour strike next term.

So let's have a huge turnout on November 30, but then let’s build for:
●    A further national strike of at least one-day as soon in 2012 as possible.
●    A programme of action co-ordinated across as many unions as possible.
●    Step up our public campaign in every town and city - ‘Fair Pensions for all!’

Uniting against the cuts

One of the best things about the campaign leading up to November 30 has been to see different unions working together and the growing mood of determination to mount a joint struggle. 

Today, unions are working together across South-East London to organise a pensions ‘battle bus’ around Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham. On Wednesday, I spoke alongside UNITE, UNISON and GMB speakers in Merton, and the same on Thursday night at a ‘NO Cuts Cabaret’ in the Rivoli ballroom to protest against cuts to young people’s services in Lewisham.

In Lewisham, the Council made £7m of cuts to the Children and Young People’s budgets in 2011/12 – with 4.8M more to come over next two years.

One of the biggest cut to come in the next round of CYP cuts will be the £200,000 ‘saving’ in special educational needs budget. Yet, disgracefully, the Council budget papers dress up the cut as an improvement ! They claim that “the reorganisation should positively impact on the experience of parents and children”.  My appeal to Labour councillors to prove that they really did have a different agenda to this Government - and demand their officers stop writing this nonsense - seemed to go down well with the audience.

As unions have warned from the start, the cuts don’t work – they just make things worse. Two of Lewisham’s 2011/12 savings have not met their targets: they put up nursery  fees but haven’t got more income because there’s then been a reduced uptake of places! They also put up school meal prices – again there’s been a reduced uptake of school meals – and now a budget shortfall.

Of course, this is just a small part of a much wider picture. Cuts mean fewer people in work, fewer paying taxes, fewer spending in shops, more spent on benefits – a vicious spiral downwards we can see in Greece and elsewhere.

The money is there to spend on our services. If the £120 billion of uncollected and avoided tax identified by the PCS was collected, there would be no need for Osborne’s cuts at all. Of course, the profiteers will always try to avoid those taxes – until and unless ordinary people, communities, trade unions, control the banks and economy so that they can put people before profit.

Friday, 25 November 2011

UNION-BUSTING AT LANGDON SCHOOL – A threat to every teacher

The recruitment of supply teachers to break teachers’ strike-action at the Langdon School in East Ham, Newham, yesterday appears to be an unprecedented attack on union organisation. If so, it needs to be met with a determined response to make sure that it remains an isolated case of union-busting.

Strikes in schools have usually been good-natured enough – with management recognising the right of staff to strike as part of their dispute. That will certainly be the case in thousands of schools on November 30. However, on Thursday November 24, a solid picket line of NUT members was disgusted to find that around two dozen supply staff had been recruited to break their strike. Alarmingly, the Labour-run Local Authority may have had a role in their recruitment.

Previously, the NUT and other unions have always advised that the recruitment of agency staff to carry out the work of striking staff was illegal under the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Business Regulations 2003. However, in the run-up to the November 30 joint national action, the Department of Education issued new advice on “Handling Industrial Action in Schools”. This accepted that the advice on agency staff was correct but pointed a way around the law – that “an employer can directly employ individuals to cover employees on strike. An employment agency can supply these workers as long as the employer (such as the school or Local Authority) directly employs them”.

The strike-breaking activities at the Langdon School yesterday appear to have been the first trialling of the new advice. Either the agencies have acted illegally or, as seems likely, contracts were issued for the employment of the strike-breaking staff. As Langdon is a Local Authority community school, this would suggest that these would have had to be Newham Council contracts.

The strike had taken place after ongoing talks at ACAS had broken down. These were to seek to resolve a dispute over what staff feel is excessive workload, as well as claims of management bullying. As I had written in a message of support to the NUT group, staff in too many London schools are working under intolerable pressure. School managements are encouraged to act in an oppressive manner by a government that wishes to instil a 'climate of fear' in schools, to the detriment of teachers and education as a whole.

It now appears that the school may have been busy recruiting strike-breakers while the talks were going on. One London NUT member reports getting a call from an agency based in the West Midlands to work at the school.

The agency staff may have had no idea that they were being recruited to break strike action. With the opportunities for supply work becoming harder to find, they were probably just glad of some much-needed income. But this is, of course, how ruthless employers have always used poverty to undermine the united union organisation that has the power to stand up to that poverty and oppression.

The DfE advice also means that the NUT and other school staff unions now face a threat to our ability to organise effective action. I believe that we must also respond in the way that unions have always had to respond to strike-breaking – by firm and determined action.

Newham NUT have organised an emergency union meeting next week where the way forward will be debated. Clearly an urgent publicity campaign needs to be mounted. Trade unions in London and nationally need to be notified to give support. The campaign will be taken to parents to persuade them to oppose the school’s strike-breaking activities. It is reported that many parents kept their children away from school yesterday. Newham Council also needs to make clear where they stand as well.

Strike action at Langdon School will be continuing with a three-day strike next week starting on Tuesday 29 November. But the school’s tactics have significantly raised the stakes. If the Local Authority is found to have been involved in recruiting strike-breaking staff, then this must raise the prospect of a dispute – and action – across the Local Authority.

Send messages of support to nutlangdon@aol.co.uk
Martin Powell-Davies, member of the NUT National Executive (personal capacity)

Thursday, 24 November 2011

A reply to Nick Gibb

With the Government panicking at the thought of millions of workers coming out on strike together next week, we should expect Ministers to turn to their ‘dirty-tricks’ department to try (but fail !) to undermine our action.

However, whether Data Protection legislation allows Nick Gibb MP, “Minister of State for Schools” to send today’s unsolicited and misleading email to thousands of teachers’ personal emails addresses, is still being investigated.

Obviously hurt by the effect of the National NUT’s pensions loss calculator, the email suggests teachers visit the DfE’s website to use their pensions calculator instead! But the DfE calculator doesn’t show you how much a teacher stands to lose from the pensions robbery! It also uses some debatable projections for ‘career averages’.

The email does have to admit that there are three things that are set to change:
  1. “A rebalancing of employee and employer contributions” – i.e PAY MORE!
  2. A move from a ‘final salary’ to a ‘career average’ pension – i.e. GET LESS!
  3. “A phased increase to teachers' Normal Pension Age” – i.e RETIRE OLDER!
In other words, cutting through the distortion – it is indeed PENSIONS ROBBERY!

My colleague on the NUT Executive for Inner London, Alex Kenny, has produced this model email to be sent in reply to Nick Gibb:

Mr Nick Gibb MP
House of Commons
London SW1 1AA

Changes to the Teacher Pension Scheme

Dear Mr Gibb,
Thank you for your correspondence, the contents of which are noted.
I note that the Department’s Pensions Calculator does not make a comparison with the pension I would get under the current scheme; my union’s calculator does exactly this and I am shocked by how much I stand to lose.
Research carried out by my union shows that, since the Teacher Pension Scheme was established in 1923, more money has been paid into it than has been paid out. The excess figure is more than £46bn.
This would seem to show that our pension scheme is affordable and sustainable in the long-term, especially as the National Audit Office tells me the costs are falling as planned.
Having made these points, I will let you have my answer in full on Wednesday November 30th.
With best wishes,

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Solid support for action on November 30

Our ring-round of school reps in Lewisham is showing an excellent response from NUT members to the strike-call for November 30.

As usual, the memnbership in bigger schools is solid but the two emails below also show the level of determination in smaller Voluntary-Aided primary schools as well:

Our school will be closed. Everyone except one teacher has opted for strike action. As a matter of principle we have to stand together. I am proud that our members opted for it even though some were wary about the money they would lose.
Please mention the sacrifice that a lot of the mostly female/young teachers made. Three of the teachers at my school are mums and only work 3 or 4 days. Three other teachers are young ones in their first or second year of teaching, one of them due on maternity leave, so on lower salaries. I know we are fighting mainly for their future but it will be encouraging for them to be acknowledged.


Hi Martin, The Head said we must all tell her what we are doing on N30 by today. So we all did, to tell her we are all out! The Head then sent a letter home to parents and told them we are all out!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Capitalism in crisis - defending education across the globe

In the post-war boom, governments agreed that well-funded comprehensive education was a price worth paying to create an educated workforce. Now, across the globe, they want to turn the clock back and steal away all the gains won by the trade union movement. 

In Britain, tuition fees and EMA cuts are robbing working-class children of the chance of further and higher education. The same policy of cutbacks is seen the world over - but so is the angry response from workers and youth.

“Students have been demonstrating now for five months, demanding free education for all” (Celso - CWI in Chile)

While the heroic struggle of the Greek workers continues, the EU financiers are determined to force through yet more cuts. Public sector salaries have already been cut in half. 30% of hospital beds have been axed. Similar attacks are also being carried out in Italy, Spain, Ireland and elsewhere. The same future awaits us in Britain if we allow the Con-Dems to defeat us. 

“Children approach their teachers to complain they are hungry, some even faint in class” (Andros - CWI in Athens) 

These vicious cuts create misery - but bring nothing but more cuts. The Greek economy has been pushed into even deeper recession as people are pushed further into poverty and joblessness.

“ The dictatorship of the markets has become a practical reality in Italy and Greece with the imposition of technocrats as Prime Minister in each country. I argue that this should be met with a European-wide general strike” (Paul Murphy MEP - CWI in Ireland)

The neo-liberal attacks on education such as the Free Schools in Sweden  and Charter Schools in the US have been shown to widen segregation and depress educational outcomes overall. But, instead of blaming themselves, capitalist politicians seek to scapegoat teachers and their trade unions instead.

“Swedish schools have become more segregated, with free schools having more unqualified teachers. The working conditions of all teachers have deteriorated” (Sigbritt - CWI in Sweden) 

The PCS civil service union has already proposed an immediate alternative to Osborne’s £81 billion worth of cuts over four years. It demands the collection of the massive £120 billion unpaid tax of big business which, if implemented, would render the cuts completely unnecessary. The Socialist Party and the whole movement support this demand.

“The education deformers want to make teachers scapegoats for the problems in society” (Tom - CWI in USA)

However, the laudable attempts to close and eliminate the ‘wealth gap’ are likely to be stillborn under capitalism.           We support a ‘Robin Hood tax’ on the transactions of big business. But history shows that the capitalists always find a million and one ways to circumvent any law which seeks to claw back some of the wealth and eats into their profits.

The only way to prevent this is through the nationalisation of the banks and finance houses. Similarly, the ‘dictatorship of the market’, which is holding the whole of Europe to ransom, should be met with the cancellation of the debt to the bond parasites. This in turn could only succeed if nationalisation was carried through not just in one country but on an international basis.

Brutal capitalism is demonstrating daily the blind alley which this system is in and is preparing the ground for millions to search for an alternative. It is incapable of satisfying human requirements in today’s world. Socialism is the idea which will dominate the 21st-century.

The CWI is the 'Committee for a Workers’ International', the international body to which the Socilaist Party is affiliated and of which I am proud to be a member. The CWI is organised in 45 countries. To read reports from struggles across the globe, visit:

Action 'with a halo' has to be action with a bite

I have consistently argued that unions need to organise national action on workload. The threat to worsen the capability, observation and performance mangement arrangements  means such a campaign is vital.

The NUT is discussing launching a national dispute to ensure that schools adopt acceptable performance management and classroom observation policies. This must be implemented.

The NASUWT national ballot already includes workload and conditions issues alongside the pensions dispute. However,  it isn’t yet clear what the proposed ‘work-to-rule’ will mean in practice. ‘Action with a halo’ makes a good sound-bite but will be of little use if it really means ‘action with no bite’.

Joint union meetings should agree united workload sanctions - calling for ballots of NUT members if necessary. However, strike action remains the clearest and most effective strategy.

The NASUWT leadership also needs to make clear that it is serious about standing firm with other unions to win the pensions dispute, rather than trying to fight separately over workload. These attacks are too serious to spend time on petty rivalries. Teachers know we need to act together. The November 30 action will lift our confidence to do exactly that.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Will you still feed me, when I'm 68?

This is all Lewisham NUT member Karen Parkinson's work (inspired by her Saturday pensions stall - see below) - but I thought it worth sharing:

When I get older losing my hair, not many years from now,
Will you still be asking me to cover a class, take a playground duty, mark assessment tasks?
When being observed to get a Grade A, will I have to demonstrate in PE?
Will you still need me, will you still pay to feed me, even with my dodgy knee?

One day you’ll be 68 too,
And if you say the word, we could meet up in the dole queue

I could be handy supporting new staff, experienced member of the team,
But will you still be asking me to mark loads of books, stay late for meetings and jump through hoops?
When being monitored to get a grade A, I must keep up with APP,
Will you still need me, will you still pay to feed me, when I‘m tired and niggardly?

I’m working all hours God sends me now, how can I give you more?
Take is all you seem to do to you don’t respect me, it’s working with the children gives me sanity,
When we get called we’ll try to jump and salute, in preparation for the big O!
Will you still need me, will you still pay to feed me, or will I have to go?

Public support for November 30 strike

NUT and PCS members took to Lewisham High Street yesterday to give out leaflets and explain our case for 'fair pensions for all'. Far from being criticised by the public, as perhaps some teachers still fear might be the case, the response was, as was the case back in June, overwhelmingly supportive. This time, of course, many of the 'public' will be on strike to defend their pensions too !

Karen Parkinson, Lewisham NUT Young Teachers Officer texted me at the CASE Conference to say "Halved the leaflets, well received by the public, lots on strike with us!"

If you want to read a copy of the parents' leaflet we've produced, go to the Lewisham NUT website:  http://local.teachers.org.uk/lewisham/news/Pensions.cfm

Anti-Academies - Fighting Gove's Schools Counter-Revolution

A packed Conference hosted by the Campaign for State Education in London yesterday heard an excellent range of contributions setting out the key arguments to combat Michael Gove's attempts to rip apart comprehensive local authority schooling. It's now vital that trade unionists and campaigners use those facts and ideas to build against academies and free schools in every community. 

Melissa Benn called on Ed Milliband to stop being ashamed of the 'c-word' and visit Alberta in Canada to see how comprehensive education succeeds. (see my review of her 'School Wars' book below  

But it was Clyde Chitty who gently chided Melissa for expecting New Labour to seriously oppose the Con-Dem's attacks. After all, he explained, Blair had outrageously described comprehensive education as 'academic vandalism' in his autobiography. Gove was merely taking New Labour's 'reforms' to their logical conclusion.

Contributing briefly from the floor, I took the opportunity to place these attacks in their economic context and to remind the meeting of the civil servant quoted in Clyde Chitty's 1997 book explaining that, once the post-war boom was over, we had to again educate children to 'know their place'. I asked whether trade unionists and anti-privatisation campaigners shouldn't now be standing independently in elections just like the independent labour candidates who stood in the School Board elections referred to in Melissa Benn's book? For the generally older audience at this conference, many of whom from a Labour Party tradition, the suggestion that we can no longer rely on Labour, whose leadership are firmly wedded to the neo-liberal agenda of cuts and privatisation, is still hard to accept. However, it is a break that I believe they will have to take.

Other contributors added important information. Barrister David Wolfe explained how each Academy is established under a different 'Funding Agreement', written without scrutiny as a contract with the Secretary of State - the one school  'GOVE-erner' as another contributor put it. Christine Blower from the NUT outlined the international evidence from Sweden and the USA exposing how privatisation leads to worse results and increasing segregation and class polarisation between schools.

Professor Stephen Ball exposed the big edu-businesses taking hold of education in Britain and internationally but it was a reference from Martin Johnson from the ATL that summed-up the money-grabbing attitude of these vultures. Martin quoted from a letter released to the Stock Exchange last week from Wey Education plc, a company headed by Zenna Atkins, ex-Chair of Ofsted. The words speak for themselves:

‘The Company will concentrate on becoming a leading education company focusing on providing a single solution to schools. Wey is responding to the English market opportunity brought about by the transfer of state-run schools to independent charitable entities and the deconstruction of the education function within local authorities. Within the 53 billion pound English education system, the standards achieved by pupils and the rounded quality of the education they receive need to be significantly improved. Additionally the evidential efficiencies that can be made in the operation of schools combine to make a clear opportunity to make a substantial return to investors and improve education in the UK.’ http://www.plus-sx.com/newsItem.html;jsessionid=892A1DFA509EAFD196F7D34A7527718F?newsId=1403538

But you can only make a 'substantial return to investors' at the expense of pupils' education and staff pay and conditions. We have to expose these vultures and Gove's real intentions and fight to defend, and extend, genuine comprehensive education for all.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

November 30: Questions and Answers about Taking Strike Action

Have you got a query about taking action on November 30? 

For 10 facts that answer the Government's false claims, go to  http://electmartin1.blogspot.com/2011/11/pensions-10-facts-government-dont-want.html

For questions about the strike itself, hopefully all the points below, posted on the Lewisham NUT website, can give you the answers you need:

All of these links open documents in Microsoft Word:

1  - why are we taking action again on November 30

2 - what do we tell the Head about November 30 ?

3  - who is being called on to take strike action ?

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 November 30  ?

12  - what do I do when I take strike action ?

14  - how much pay will I lose for a day's strike ?

NUT Executive builds for November 30 - and beyond

A special meeting of the NUT Executive this afternoon was given a list - a growing list - of all the unions declaring for action on November 30:

With NAPO and the NASUWT soon to declare as well, no wonder the Government is worrying at the effect of millions of trade unionists taking action together to defend their pensions and to stand up to the Government's cuts. The PCS website lists even more - with a total of 28 unions taking action !

One of the latest ballot results to be declared was from NUT members employed in local authority support and advisory services who are members of  the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS). They gave a resounding endorsement for strike action to defend their pensions with  82.2% of NUT members voting in favour of strike action with a turnout of 40.6%. They join NUT members in schools and colleges who have already taken strike action on 30 June.
The Union's recent electronic survey of members had also confirmed the overwhelming support of NUT members for the Union's campaign:
  • 98% agreed that teachers shouldn't be expected to work to age 68 to get a full pension;
  • 97% agreed that it was unfair to be told we should pay 50% more for our pension; and,
  • 98% agreed that the Government's offer does not go far enough to settle the pensions dispute.

The Government are starting to wobble - but we are going to keep applying the pressure. The Executive agreed that we should talk to other unions and the TUC about a programme of action for next term including rolling strikes and other possible action. I proposed an amendment, that was unanimously supported, also stressing that, as part of that programme, we should consider "at least a further day of national action in the Spring Term".

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Organising for a tremendous turnout on November 30

I was in deepest Deptford at my own Lewisham NUT Pensions Briefing last night then in a countryside pub for Bedfordshire NUT’s meeting tonight. Two very different venues but one very determined and unified message – we’re striking together to defend our pensions!

Both meetings showed that members had not been taken in by the Government’s minimal ‘offer’. But their manoeuvring has raised trade unionists’ confidence that Cameron, Gove and Maude are having to take notice and that we can force them to retreat much further.

The number of unions declaring for action continues to grow. Radiographers, physiotherapists and further civil service unions are just the latest to add their forces to the millions preparing for action on November 30.

The Bedfordshire meeting was also addressed by a local GMB schools’ officer who, while awaiting their ballot result announcement, confidently said that he was yet to talk to a GMB support staff member who was not going to join the strike. He also pointed out that, while many classroom assistants are on low part-time and/or term-time only wages, they will still be hit by big contribution increases because the contribution rates are based on full-time equivalent annual rates of pay.

There’s a lot of hard work to be done over the next two weeks explaining, encouraging and answering the lies that will be circulated by Ministers and some Council Officers to try and undermine our action. But if these meetings are anything to go by, they won’t succeed in stopping unions uniting in an overwhelming show of strength on November 30.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Pensions: 10 facts the Government don’t want to tell you:

1. Unions negotiated and agreed the changes to pensions that were introduced in 2007:
The last Government also wanted to make big cuts to public sector pensions - the threat of strike action forced them to retreat. This Government will have to do the same.

2. The 2007 changes were properly costed - but this Government refuses to do a valuation:
Why are they scared of the facts? Probably because if a valuation was done, it would show that Ministers are wrong to claim our pensions are ‘unaffordable’. Instead, it would confirm that the cost of pensions is set to fall - just as the Government’s own National Audit Office suggests:
“The 2007-08 changes are likely to reduce costs to taxpayers of the pension schemes by £67 billion over 50 years”  (NAO)

3. Teachers have paid £46bn more money into the Pension Scheme than has been paid out:
Far from being a burden to the taxpayer, NUT researchers suggest that the Teachers Pension Scheme has actually helped to fund Government expenditure!  Adjusting for  today’s prices, they estimate that a staggering £46 billion more was paid into the scheme than has been paid out!

4. Cameron’s claims in Parliament exaggerate their pensions ‘offer’ and mislead the public:
Ministers gave an example in Parliament that suggested that a teacher would be better off under their proposals! But they were comparing what a teacher would get at 68 under their scheme with what they would get at 60 now!
Of course, if a teacher struggled on to 68 they would have paid through the nose for any bigger pension with eight more years of increased contributions. But, if they chose to go at 60, the Government would make an ‘actuarial  reduction’ that robbed them of their pension entitlements. Instead of getting £1000s more, they’d get £1000s less.
“That teacher retiring at age 60 under the new arrangements would receive a pension of £13,800 - a loss of £5,300 per year compared with £19,100 under the current scheme” (NUT)

5. They want our pension ages to be OVER 68:
Most teachers will face an impossible choice - retire ‘early’ and give up £1000s of their hard-earned pension or try to work on in an exhausting school environment ‘til 67 or 68. They might have to work on even longer. The Government wants to raise state pension ages even further than that!

6. The change from RPI to to CPI is just a crude cut - it isn’t supported by statisticians:
The Government wants to switch to CPI for just one simple reason - it costs less. They can save money at the expense of all those needing to live on pensions and benefits.
“We do not feel CPI serves the purpose of being a sufficiently good measure of price  inflation as experienced by households”  (Royal Statistical Society)

7. There’s a real pensions scandal in the UK - but cutting teachers’ pensions won’t solve it:
Only one in three private sector workers is now a member of an employer-sponsored pension scheme; in Europe, only Cyprus, Latvia and Estonia have higher levels of pensioner poverty. But  the Government aren’t cutting  public sector pensions to pay for increased state pensions! No, they want a ‘race to the bottom’ for all of us.

8. While we have to pay more, they want  employers to pay less into the pension funds:While teachers’ contributions are increased, the new ‘offer’ is based on cutting the level of employers’ contributions.

9. They’re cutting our pensions to help big businesses privatise our services:
“Labour has accused the government of using its public sector pension reforms to "soften up" the cost base of schools, hospitals and other public services and pave the way for a programme of mass privatisation” (The Guardian 5.7.11).

10. There is enough money in society to have fair pensions for all - that’s what we fight for:
A quarter of all tax relief on pensions, over £10bn a year, goes to the richest 1% in the country. These are the same individuals who have seen their bonuses and incomes rocket while the rest of us are told to accept cuts.
Teachers and other public-sector workers don’t need lectures from this government of millionaires about  ‘pensions justice’. We will strike to defend our pensions - and strengthen the campaign for fair pensions for all.