Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Have you voted YES YES yet ?

Voting papers for the new NUT ballot should now have arrived at members' home addresses.
Don't put the ballot paper aside - send it off with A YES YES vote straight away!
If a ballot paper hasn't arrived at your home address, ring the ballot hotline on 020 7380 6300 or email action@nut.org.uk
The information with the ballot paper gives five very good reasons for voting YES YES:
1. Teacher workload is far too high and rising - with current stress levels, working as a teacher until the age of 68, 69 or 70 just can't be done. 
“Everything comes at once - reports, annual reviews, observations ... it’s not one single thing - it’s just the quantity! Teachers are being driven out of the profession” (Lewisham NUT rep at our ballot briefing)
2) Teachers face too many observations and inspections. 
3) Performance Management should be supportive - not used as a means to undermine teachers.
“When teachers are finding aspects of teaching hard they are just endlessly observed and criticised instead of being helped and supported” (Lewisham NUT rep at our ballot briefing)
4) We want a national pay and conditions system for all schools, maintained schools and academies alike. 
5) Freezing pay and threatening spine points is unacceptable, especially at a time when the Government is increasing our pension contributions.
“Spell out the attacks on capability and the threats to stop teaching progressing on the pay spine – or even take away spine points they have got - and I’m sure everyone will vote YES”. (Lewisham NUT rep at our ballot briefing)

Saturday, 23 June 2012

NUT Ballot papers have arrived - VOTE YES YES


Every NUT member needs to look out for their ballot paper and send back a YES YES vote straightaway!

If a ballot paper hasn't arrived at their home address by Wednesday June 27, members should ring the ballot hotline on 020 7380 6300 or email action@nut.org.uk

The information with the ballot paper gives five very good reasons for voting YES to strike action - and YES to non-strike action too:

1) Teacher workload is far too high and rising - with current stress levels, working as a teacher until the age of 68, 69 or 70 just can't be done.

2) Much of this workload is generated by unnecessary and burdensome accountability.
Teachers face too many observations and inspections.

3) Performance Management should be supportive and developmental
. It should not be a means to undermine teachers.

4) Pay and conditions should not be decided school by school. A national system, for maintained schools and academies alike, is fairer for teachers and children.

5) Freezing pay and threatening your spine points is unacceptable
. Especially at a time when the Government is increasing your pension contributions whilst refusing to carry out the long overdue valuation of the Teachers Pensions Scheme.

The accompanying letter also makes clear that the NUT is 'keeping pensions centre stage'
: "This ballot is aimed at winning back the conditions teachers need to be successful in the classroom and at defending the profession against the threats to our national pay arrangements. The pensions campaign will continue in tandem with this and any action taken on pensions is covered by our previous ballot".

So call on all your colleagues:

  • Vote YES to strike action. 
  • Vote YES to non-strike action too.
  • Call for joint national strike action early next term to defend pensions, pay and conditions!

Friday, 22 June 2012

Support the London bus strike

My Year 10 class was thin on the ground this morning as the London-wide bus strike took nearly all buses off the roads of South-East London.

Pickets at Bromley bus garage

But the determined turnout on the picket-lines that I visited before work in Catford and Bromley - and the supportive 'toots' of passing motorists - showed the support for the action amongst both drivers and the public.

This strike took place after a 94% vote for action and a last-minute refusal by the employers to come up with the money to fund a bonus for
coping with an extra 900,000 passengers during the Olympics and Paralympics. 

Yet Olympic bonus awards have already been agreed for the following workers:
Heathrow Express: £700
Network Rail: £500
Docklands Light Railway: £900
Virgin Rail: £500
London Overground: £600
London Underground: at least £850
BAA staff: up to £1,200

Outside Catford bus garage this morning
If the employers wanted to test the mood of the drivers - then today will have given them their answer. Many pickets were talking of the need to call further strike action. 

But this is just one attack of many. Today, ballot papers are on their way to NUT members across England and Wales about attacks to our pay and conditions. As Steve, a driver on the Bromley picket-line, told me this morning, "every trade union should be out on strike together"

See further reports on: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/14751/22-06-2012/london-bus-workers-strike

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Look out for those ballot papers and VOTE YES YES!

Ballot papers are being issued to NUT members' home addresses slightly earlier than first publicised - so they could even reach members' homes by the weekend.

Make sure to alert  friends and colleagues in the NUT to look out for their envelope - and to send off their paper with a YES YES vote for strike and non-strike action!

If members haven't had a ballot paper by Wednesday June 27, they should ring the NUT ballot hotline on 020 7380 6300.

As well as this blog, if you are looking for further information about the ballot and the campaign to defend pensions, pay and conditions, have a look at both the NUT website http://www.teachers.org.uk/ and the newly-launched website for the Local Associations Network http://www.nutlan.org.uk/

There's also a 'Gove Must Go' video - calling for a YES YES vote put together by Dave in Luton NUT on: http://youtu.be/V-DL1GJuvmQ

For wider information about battles across the trade union movement, have a look at the website of the National Shop Stewards Network on http://www.shopstewards.net/

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Local Associations Network Conference meets in Liverpool

Over 100 NUT delegates gathered in Liverpool on June 16 for the founding Conference of the ‘Local Associations Network’.

The Conference was called in response to the failure of the NUT Executive majority to call further national action on pensions since November. Every speech reflected the frustration at the resulting loss of momentum but also a determination to rebuild national action on pensions, pay and conditions.

As Julie Lyon-Taylor, Liverpool NUT Secretary and NUT Executive member, said in opening the meeting, “we’re not here to sit and complain but to take action forward”.

Patrick Murphy, Leeds NUT and NUT Executive, explained that “What’s happening here today is a model for how trade unionists react when things go badly. When you have a setback you organise"

David Plews, a Lewisham delegate complained that the NUT Executive “had got scared, but my members didn’t get scared, they want to know what’s happened to the pensions campaign”. Jane Nellist from Coventry NUT explained how our inaction had damaged the NUT’s reputation as a fighting Union and let down PCS, UCU and others looking to co-ordinate action. “Teachers have power because when we strike, people can’t go to work. We have to use that power”.

Teachers certainly can’t work until they’re 68. The pressures in schools mean many are already forced out before the present retirement age of 60. Peter Glover from Liverpool described how many teachers felt they were “one classroom observation from the sack” with constant critical management visits to lessons being used to bully and intimidate staff.

The afternoon session concentrated on building support for the new NUT national ballot to extend our action beyond pensions and allow both strike and non-strike action on issues like excessive workload, observations and threats of fast-track ‘capability’ sackings.

The Conference voted to build for the biggest possible majority and turnout in that ballot, which opens on June 25. The prospect of united action with the other main teaching union, the NASUWT, will help encourage support. But the hold-up in the pensions campaign will have undermined confidence that the NUT has a clear strategy to win. The Conference resolved to call on both unions to implement a serious strategy to defeat these serious attacks facing teachers and education.

An amendment from Lewisham NUT was unanimously agreed calling for an escalating program of national action, starting from as early as possible in the autumn term, and to call on other teaching and non-teaching unions to join with us in setting that calendar of action.

The Conference concluded by voting unanimously for a statement formally launching the “Local Associations Network” and to organise a recall Conference next term. A proposal that the recall event be organised jointly with the Editorial Board of the ‘Campaign Teacher’ newspaper was defeated. Unity is important, but it has to be on a principled basis. Most delegates agreed that giving influence to a grouping that includes NUT Executive members that had opposed national strike action in March and June could compromise the Network’s aims. However, to show the inclusive nature of the Network, it was agreed by that each supporting Association would be entitled to a representative on the Steering Committee.

Roy Bowser, Barnsley NUT Secretary and a miner active in the 84-85 strike, closed the meeting. In his speech he highlighted the viciousness of the present government and called for an organisation that can meet the challenge and mobilise school workers for the fight. Speaking after the meeting, Roy said that the meeting “surpassed all my expectations but more to the point was a true outlet for the way most members are feeling. I think behind the rhetoric there is a real base for a rank and file bottom up push that hopefully will now help shape strategy.”

This Network, already supported by over 30 different Associations from a range of different areas and traditions, can be a powerful force both to pressurise from below for national action and to strengthen organisation at a local level too. Our immediate task is to build for a big ‘YES YES’ vote in the new national ballot.

Video Report from NSSN 2012 Conference

Last weekend, two of the most militant trade union leaders, PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka, and Alex Gordon, President of the rail union RMT, addressed around 500 workplace reps assembled in Friends Meeting House in London Euston for the sixth annual National Shop Stewards Network conference.

The video report can be found on: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=09FjSr6GLO4

Introducing the first discussion, The Fightback against Austerity, Mark Serwotka, alongside NUT deputy general secretary Kevin Courtney, BMA member Dr Jackie Grunskill, and from Northern Ireland the newly elected NIPSA president Padraig Mulholland, emphasised the unprecedented nature of the attacks in this period, concluding that "normal rules of engagement do not apply".

RMT president Alex Gordon addresses the afternoon session, Workers in Struggle, alongside POA chair PJ McParlin, Youth Fight for Jobs activist Jacqui Berry, Remploy trade unionist Ray Ludford and Steve Kelly, Unite National Rank and File Electricians Committee.

Speakers from the floor gave valuable elaboration on recent workplace disputes, including on the construction workers victory against the BESNA threatened cuts of 35% MMP in Bootle, Coryton refinery, Honda, Ratcliffe-on-Soar and Sheffield recycling centres.

- and there's a few words from me towards the end of the video!  


LANAC delegates unanimously call for calendar of action

Over 100 delegates representing over 30 NUT Local Associations gathered at the ‘Local Associations for National Action Conference’ in Liverpool on June 16 to discuss how to build national action to defend pensions, pay and conditions.

At the conclusion of a day of democratic debate and discussion, the following amended statement was agreed unanimously, formally setting up the 'Local Associations Network':

This conference agrees to maintain and build a network of local associations and school reps that will enable teacher trade unionists to exchange information, debate and discuss strategy to defeat the serious attacks we face, call on our National Unions to implement such a strategy, and organise solidarity between local and national struggles with the following aims:

1. Continue to work at every level in the NUT for the earliest possible return to collective industrial action in opposition to the attacks on pensions and for a calendar of action that can secure further concessions from this weakened Government. This must involve an escalating program of national action, starting from as early as possible in the autumn term, and continuing beyond, including strike action of more than one day's duration. The NUT should call on other teaching and non-teaching unions to join with us in setting that calendar of joint action.

2. Develop a fightback on workload, capability and abuse of classroom observations at school, local and national level based on collective action by members, including both strike and non-strike sanctions, non-cooperation, defined limits to workload demands and spreading success.

3. Identify, develop and spread the best examples of effective, confident organisation in the workplace which can deliver action, involve members and breakdown divisions between school unions, and build solidarity with associations, school groups and other unions taking action.

4. Welcome and seek to maximise the potential of the national joint declaration of intent between the NUT and NASUWT on action to defend pensions & jobs, and to fight excessive workload, local and performance pay, starting by making every effort to win the national NUT ballot this term with as large a majority and turnout as possible. Establish association campaign committees. Organise as many school meetings as possible, preferably with the NASUWT, to build for the ballot and endorse the Agreement.

5. Work to ensure that the joint NUT/NASUWT initiative:

(a) includes joint national strike action

(b) clearly and explicitly addresses the issue of pensions and demands the re-opening of talks with government

(c) leads to the development of rank and file links between the NUT and NASUWT including across schools.

(d) is not used to justify further unnecessary delay in taking action alongside other trade unions seeking to build co-ordinated strike action.

(e) includes far more effective sanctions than those in the existing NASUWT ‘action-short-of-strike-action’

6. Congratulate London associations on organising the lobby of the DfE on 10th May. Commit ourselves to organise similar actions in our areas, if possible with local NASUWT branches. Build the joint NUT/NASUWT demonstrations in Sheffield and Oxford on July 14.

7. Fight to have these priorities endorsed and prioritised by the national union and every NUT association.

From this Conference, we propose that:

a. We agree to set up a ‘Local Associations Network’ from today’s Conference that:

i) Hosts a website to publicise the network’s aims, to share materials that can be used in schools and associations to build local and national campaigns, and to inform teacher trade unionists about the latest developments in union campaigns, decisions and debates on the National Executive, and about actions being taken by teacher trade unionists and other public sector unions.
[The website has been set up as www.nutlan.org.uk].

ii) is co-ordinated by a Steering Committee elected at today’s Conference. In electing the committee, the conference must ensure that the steering group is not dominated by any particular geographical area or political viewpoint but is inclusive to the range of associations supporting the aims of the network (* see footnote).

iii) produces a report of the discussion and decisions at today’s Conference to be distributed as widely as possible and certainly by associations sponsoring the Conference.

b. We publicise the concrete actions suggested at today’s Conference including:

iv) Sharing and circulating model materials urging NUT members to vote YES in the new ballot.

v) Calling on school groups and associations to lobby their NUT Executive members by sending letters and motions calling on them to vote for national strike action to be held as soon as possible next term, such strikes to be co-ordinated with unions who are willing to take action, such as PCS and the NASUWT, wherever possible but not tied to such joint actions alone.

vi) Inviting Executive members to Association and school group meetings to explain the position they have taken and to listen to the views of members in schools.

c. We convene a further Local Associations Conference next term to review progress made in both revitalising the pensions campaign - and in building effective action to tackle the other attacks facing teachers and education - and to discuss our next steps.

* It was agreed that this proposal would best be met by agreeing that each Association that agrees to affiliate to the Local Associations Network and supports the Network's aims is entitled to one representative on the Steering Committee, to be decided by that Local Association, and that the first meeting of the Committee should be in early September.

As agreed unanimously (with amendments) by LANAC Conference on June 16 2012.

Thursday, 14 June 2012


With a YES vote won in the ballot for non-strike action, the NUT will be able to call on teachers right across the Union to take action from September to protect us from the attacks we face.

‘Non-strike’ action could take a lot of forms. The NUT is discussing joint advice with the NASUWT - but will want to ensure that the action taken is more effective than the existing NASUWT ‘action-short-of-strike-action’.

If you’ve got ideas about action that would be widely supported in your school /area, let your NUT Executive member know! But these are some of the suggestions that have been discussed as possible actions. Some could be ongoing, some perhaps run in ‘target weeks’:

  • Refusing to hand in short-term plans to school management - because planning should be to help teachers teach, not for managers to monitor us. Refusing to attend more than one sixty minute management-directed meeting a week, with staff leaving together if this time is exceeded.
  • Staff all leaving the site together shortly after the end of the school day – limiting our hours at work.
  • Refusing to work more than an overall thirty-five hours a week – limiting our hours out of work too!
  • Refusing to accept observations or drop-ins that do not adhere to the Union’s limits and protocols – why don’t we tell pupils just to read in silence until the observer leaves?
We also need a big YES vote for strike action too. Non-strike action can help defend teachers from the immediate pressures we face in schools but strike action is still the strongest form of action we can take - and that we must take if we are to win lasting gains.

National strike action is most likely to make sure that our campaign hits the headlines. It also most easily unites members from across different schools and regions - from the best-organised through to those that perhaps are not so confident. If, as we hope, the NUT and NASUWT will be taking joint action - hopefully alongside other unions too - unions representing at least 85% of teachers in England and Wales will be taking action together. That will make a real impact.

Strike action will be vital if we are to win our national campaign to make this Government think again about its attacks - and to win the protections on pay, workload, inspections, observations - and of course on pensions too - that are needed to defend both teachers and education. Unions will obviously also give full support to members if any employer tries to take action against staff taking part in the campaign.

With economic and political troubles adding to their woes, this Coalition is susceptible to pressure. It’s time we turned the tables and put them under a bit more stress! 

So please vote YES to non-strike action and vote YES to strike action too!


The delay in calling further national pensions action in schools since November 30 has raised questions about where the pensions campaign is going. They can best be answered by the NUT & NASUWT announcing clear dates for a calendar of strike action next term.

Dates for joint national action in the Autumn are under discussion. Other unions - such as the PCS and UCU who took strike action in May - also want to set dates for co-ordinated action with teaching unions. So the pensions campaign is far from over - and we can’t let it be! We still can’t afford to be paying in more - and we certainly can’t afford to have to teach until we are 68. The higher pension payments have started - but have yet to be imposed in full. The raising of pension ages won’t be implemented until 2015 - so we still have time to force further concessions - and we must do so.

Support staff unions need to be fighting alongside us too. The TUC have called for another big anti-cuts national demonstration in London on October 20th - but it must be a springboard to united union action.

The National Shop Stewards Network Conference agreed to lobby across the movement for a one-day general strike across both public and private sectors, to really put pressure on the Coalition. The June 16 Local Associations Conference in Liverpool will also be making plans to keep up the pressure for action.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Vote YES YES in the new NUT ballot !

They’re not just coming for our PENSIONS … They want to bully us with CAPABILITY and OBSERVATIONS, PAY CUTS & WORKLOAD …

Time to stand up to ALL these attacks - from JUNE 25, VOTE YES, YES,  in the new NUT ballot !

That pair of Michael’s - Gove and Wilshaw - seem to want to make an all-out effort to hound and demoralise teachers. They tell us we’ll have to work until we’re 68 - then ratchet up the pressure so that few of us feel we can even stay on until 60!

Sir Michael Wilshaw, Head of Ofsted, disgracefully declared in December that “if anyone says to you that ‘staff morale is at an all-time low’, you know that you are doing something right”. 

Unfortunately, that approach sums up an attitude which is spreading far too quickly into our schools. Heads are bullied by an Ofsted regime pandering to Gove’s desire to label schools as failures so that they can be forced into Academies. Instead of exposing this agenda, too many school managers are just piling the pressure onto their staff, increasing workload, capability threats, demoralising teachers with harsh Ofsted-style observations. It’s a regime that’s bad for education - and it’s certainly bad for teachers. 

It’s just not possible to oppose these pressures by individual casework. To defend teachers, we have to act together. That’s why the NUT is issuing a second national action ballot.

The first ballot on pensions - that allowed action on June 30, November 30 and, in London, on March 28 – remains in place. It will be used again to sanction more united strike action on pensions after the summer break. But we need another ballot so that we can also take action against all the other attacks we face too.

Ballot papers will be sent to home addresses from June 25. NUT members will asked two questions – one to support strike action and another to support ‘non-strike’ action. Please vote YES to both questions!

With the NUT and NASUWT making their joint declaration, a strong united campaign can be built. But members of both unions need to make sure that this potential strength is turned into firm united action on pay, workload and capability in our schools - and into united national action alongside both teaching and non-teaching unions to keep up - and escalate - our battle on pensions.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

For a one-day general strike !

National Shop Stewards Network Conference 2012
Yesterday's sixth annual conference of the National Shop Stewards Network brought together hundreds of trade unionists to discuss how best to build a united struggle against the attacks on pensions, pay, jobs and services.

The Conference agreed that NSSN Networks need to do everything they can to build the TUC national demonstration on October 20th - but to demand that the TUC uses it as a springboard to build for a one-day general strike - including both public and private sector trade unionists - to challenge cuts and austerity.

Every speaker from the rostrum - and the many from the floor - brought a flavour of the many struggles that had taken place over the last year. Reps from private-sector battles such as the successful construction workers' disputes, from MMP in Bootle and from Honda, described how determined action can make the employers retreat. Two doctors described the unprecedented support for action within the BMA membership.

Trade union leaders such as Mark Serwotka (PCS), Alex Gordon (RMT), Padraig Mulholland (NIPSA) and PJ McParlin (POA) showed how a fighting leadership is battling to maintain the momentum of struggle despite the retreats by the TUC tops and other unions who had thrown in the towel on pensions just a few weeks after the massive show of united trade union strength on November 30. But the battle is far from over - and we certainly aren't going to let N30 be the end of the story! 

Mark Serwotka congratulated the NSSN on their position of "no cuts" and described the Labour Party's opposition to austerity as being 'pitiful'. The PCS is now going to ballot its membership on support for standing trade union candidates where other parties are failing to provide an opposition to cuts and privatisation. But he also called for an honest analysis of both the successes and setbacks over the last year explaining that no one union, or even one sector, can defeat these attacks alone. Mark called for a strengthening of the rank-and-file organisation, especially in those big unions holding back from struggle, to pressurise leaders to act - just as they had been pushed from below to act on N30. That is, of course, a role that the NSSN has been built to take on. 

Kevin Courtney, DGS of the NUT, also congratulated the NSSN on its efforts to build an organised network of political trade unionists in touch with members in the workplaces. Kevin also called for trade unions to make demands that will win support from the millions beyond our memberships - such as the '68 is too late' demand for both occupational and state pensions.

Kevin explained how the recent agreement between the NUT and NASUWT would hopefully bring not just the 45% of teachers in NUT membership into action, but also the 40% of teachers in the NASUWT - allowing teachers to make a more effective addition to the joint action that needed to be built in the Autumn.

Newly-elected socialist President of NIPSA, Padraig Mulholland, called for a 1-day public sector strike in the Autumn but explained that while NIPSA called for the greatest possible unity, it could not be 'unity at any price'. That was a theme that I also took up in  my contribution from the floor. The prospect of united action with the NASUWT can certainly help rebuild confidence after the stuttering campaign over the last few months, but not if the NASUWT leadership are allowed to set a pace which holds back the movement - just when we need to be stepping up action, not holding back. I also warned that, while action-short-of-strike-action can play its part in defending teachers from the attacks we face, it is national strike action that most easily brings together both the strongest and least strongly organised regions and schools into action - and let's us unite alongside other trade unions too.

However, while I pointed out that other trade unions must have been questioning the NUT's resolve after the 'will-they-won't-they' debates over March, May and June - when the NUT has regrettably held back from national action, I made clear to the Conference that the NUT is a union that will fight. With the attacks we face on pensions - and all the other attacks that we are now going to ballot to take action over as well such as pay, capability and workload - we have no choice but to act. 

Teachers certainly can't work until they're 68 and with the stress in today's schools, few teachers can even work until they are 60 (and indeed in 2010/11 official figures show that 4 in 10 teachers retired before their existing retirement age) ! That's why NUT members must go all out to win a big YES vote in the new ballot starting on 25 June. But we must then use that mandate to unite with others across the trade union movement in announcing a calendar of united national strike action, starting as early in the Autumn as possible.