The NUT Executive met again on January 26 and agreed the following recommendations for the ongoing pensions campaign:
1. Christine Blower and Kevin Courtney will continue to work to convene the joint meeting of unions that have not signed up to heads of agreement.
We are not alone! Far from it. Christine and Kevin gave an encouraging report from a meeting convened by the NUT that had brought together a sizeable number of different union leaders to discuss a joint campaign.
The meeting shows that, after the setback of some other unions signing the totally inadequate ‘Heads of Agreement’ deal, a significant group of unions is still standing firm. Unions will meet again next week to look at joint plans in more detail.
2. Christine and Kevin will press the case at the meeting with the other unions for a joint further day of action in March, before the contributions increase, as part of an on-going campaign involving further action, and other activities.
Motions from schools and Associations, including many from London, had been sent in to the Union in support of further action - action that must be taken if we are going to persuade this Government to back-off from making teachers work to 68 and pay 50% more in pensions contributions. The Executive agrees - but, while understanding the urgency in providing a clear plan of action - also recognises that we have to try and reach agreement with other unions before any firm date is ‘named’ as the next suggested strike day.
March 1 had been proposed by the UCU, but I understand that other unions felt that a slightly later date was needed. The NUT will be firmly calling on unions to agree on a definite strike day in March - but not as a one-off action. We also want to discuss the further joint action that will need to follow.
3. A special National Executive will be called for February 9th to consider the results of that joint union meeting.
The Executive will be recalled to make sure that there is no unnecessary delay in preparing for further action.
Hopefully, the joint discussions will have arrived at firm conclusions to put to other Union Executives,as well as ours, so we can follow a common strategy.
4. Any outcome from Feb 9th Executive to go forward with action should be accompanied by home mailings, emails, reps news etc. arguing the case for the action including materials relating to the Government/Ofsted assault on teachers since January and the attacks in the Autumn statement.
Some members have already indicated their support for further action but we want to make sure that every NUT member understands why we cannot accept the ‘Heads of Agreement’ and why we need their support for the proposed plan of action
If we retreat on pensions, then we will give the Government confidence to press ahead with all their other attacks - a continued pay freeze, endless observations, longer hours … plus the threat of fast-track sackings if they decide you don’t meet their imposed standards.
It won’t just be ‘pay more, retire older and get less’, it will be ‘pay more and get a LOT less’, when teachers are forced by the stress and relentless pressure to retire long before they reach their full pensions age.
Alongside the campaign against ‘pensions robbery’, Executive members also discussed how best to fight Gove’s ‘bullies charter’ and its threat to unfairly force teachers through accelerated capability procedures. We hope we can get unions to agree an alternative policy that we can then propose to Local Authorities and Governors - backed up with action if necessary.
5. All affected members will be consulted on and urged to support any proposed action, once it is clear which other unions intend to be involved.
The Executive knows that many of the most active union members understand the issues, know what’s at stake, and are ready for further strike action. However, particularly now some unions have stepped back from the struggle, at least for now, the Executive believes we need to make absolutely sure that the next NUT action has widespread backing across the whole Union. That’s why we agreed to carry out some kind of consultative survey of members to indicate their endorsement of the union’s proposed action.
The exact details of the survey were left for further discussion, but it certainly doesn’t need to be another full ballot sent to home addresses. Our legal ballot for discontinuous action remains in force. This would be solely an internal Union survey to gauge - and to build - support for our plan of strike action.
As I said when I spoke in the debate, of course this kind of survey is not without risk. However, proceeding without this consultation presents an even greater risk - that we might not have correctly prepared the support for action across the whole Union.
So everyone who supports action - from the Executive right down to members in schools - would need to use this survey to get the message out to their colleagues, to union meetings, and to neighbouring schools, that we all need to continue, and extend, the fight to stop this pensions robbery.
6. The Divisional Secretaries meeting on Feb 2nd will be consulted as to readiness for action and encouraged to continue building the campaign, including through school meetings, street stalls and lobbies of MPs. A draft plan of action will be devised for consultation with the meeting. This would include one day of national action in March and a plan of what a possible strategy of further action could look like.
NUT Local Division Secretaries - who are the key officers and local organisers in the union - are being called together for a special meeting next week.
They can then have their say about what our campaign strategy and timetable should be, what the mood for action is in their area, and discuss how we go out to build action. If you have an opinion, make sure to tell your NUT Secretary before they come to next week’s meeting!
7. The union seeks to make common publicity with other teacher unions in particular around age of retirement and increased contributions and by placing a petition on the Government web-site.
As well as using the key weapon of strike action, we need to get our message out to the public about the damage these proposals will cause to both teachers and education - and right across our public services.
Some unions are keen on using a petition as a way to gather publicity - and we are obviously happy to do so.
8. The NUT will press the case for TUC support for action by unions that have not ‘signed up’ at the Public Sector Liaison Group on Feb 6th – and keep working to get other unions back to the campaign.
UNISON, GMB and ATL may have signed-up for now - but we hope our campaign - and the real facts about the ‘Agreement’ - will persuade their members to call for their unions to rejoin the fight for a better deal.
At a recent regional TUC meeting, UNISON officials said they would still be giving support to unions like the NUT who were continuing with action. We are calling for that to be the clear official position of the national TUC.