Saturday, 29 September 2012

Local Associations Network builds for action

Delegates from 23 different NUT associations met in Leeds today – with apologies given from seven more – for the first steering committee of LANAC – the 'Local Associations Network Action Campaign'.

LANAC – launched after two packed meetings of NUT delegates at Easter’s Annual Conference – brings together affiliated NUT Associations on the basis of a founding statement agreed at our first annual Conference held in Liverpool in June. This statement included the following aims:
* To 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.
* 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.
* Seek to maximise the potential of the national joint declaration of intent between the NUT and NASUWT on action to defend pensions and jobs, and to fight excessive workload, local and performance pay, while working 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’

Delegates welcomed the fact that the last objective had already been secured, with the jointly agreed action instructions already securing confidence-boosting victories in schools right across the country. At last, teachers were seeing a chance to take back at least some control over their working lives. Delegates reported staff meetings being cancelled in Lewisham, ‘mocksted’ inspections called off in Islington, joint NUT/NASUWT deputations ensuring observation limits were adhered to in Liverpool, limits on reports being won in Hull, PPA being protected in St.Helens, cover for absence being highlighted as an issue in Leicestershire, ‘workload impact assessments’ being used to tackle excessive workload in Barking and Dagenham.

It was clear that we were just at the beginning of what could be a long campaign and that these success stories needed to be shared with other schools to encourage the action to spread.

While the action short of strike action was starting to achieve these small victories – and bring new reps and school groups into activity across the country – delegates also reported that teachers were rightly asking when the national strike action needed to defeat the on-going attacks on pensions, and to win lasting improvements to our national conditions, was to be called. Regrettably, there was, as yet, no sign of agreement on calling national strike action, particularly from the NASUWT leadership.

It was agreed to publicise model petitions and, in particular, model motions, for school groups and Local NUT Associations to pass, calling on the NUT Executive to urgently seek agreement for dates for join strike action with other unions including, if necessary, without waiting further for the NASUWT.

In the absence of nationally-called action, LANAC is, however, also keen to explore and develop the possibilities of locally co-ordinated strike action to oppose unacceptable appraisal and observation policies being imposed by schools and/or Local Authorities. This would also be vital to oppose the threats of disciplinary action and pay deductions that were being made by some headteachers. Coventry, St.Helens and Lewisham NUT Associations had already agreed to pursue Association-wide strike action if required. Those of us on the NUT Executive pledged to clarify Union policy on local strike action at next week’s national meetings, as well as to make clear whether strike-pay could be paid to members.

The only real divisions at the meeting arose over the attitude we should take to the meeting being called by ‘Campaign Teacher’ on November 24. As the LANAC Conference in Liverpool had mandated the Committee to call a further national conference of our own this term – to review the action campaign, the decision to call this alternative national meeting a week before our preferred date of December 1st presented obvious difficulties. After debate, it was agreed that we could best address this clash by agreeing to shift our LANAC conference to December 8th, hopefully to be hosted by City of Leicester Association.

However, the discussion revisited differences in approach that had previously been debated at the Liverpool LANAC conference, when a minority unsuccessfully argued that we should call our meeting in unity with ‘Campaign Teacher’, the publication produced with the support of the STA and CDFU groups within the NUT. However, as I argued today, while trying to campaign for our aims throughout the Union, LANAC has to maintain its principled position in favour of national action and to maintain our clear democratic structure, built on elected delegates from Local NUT Associations. Today, and at the June Conference, many LANAC delegates rightly pointed out that the position of ‘Campaign Teacher’ towards calling national action remains unclear. After all, too many supporters of Campaign Teacher had regrettably backed the decision to call off the national action originally planned for earlier this year – the decision that had given rise to LANAC in the first place.

The LANAC Conference in June had voted that, by agreeing that each supporting NUT Association was entitled to a representative on the Steering Committee, we would “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”. This inclusive approach was maintained in the election of the following LANAC officers at today’s meeting:
Convenor: Martin Powell-Davies (Lewisham)
Chair: Julie Lyon-Taylor (Liverpool)
Vice-Chair: Sally Kincaid (Wakefield)
Treasurer: Debs Gwynne (St.Helens)
Website Co-Ordinators: Dean (Northampton) and Derek (West Sussex)
Newsletter Editor: Patrick Murphy (Leeds)

Plans were agreed to circulate stories of local successes on the website and via twitter, and to produce and circulate LANAC leaflets to help build the action short of strike action campaign, while also calling for dates for national strike action to be set as well. Details of the December 8th LANAC conference will also be circulated as soon as the venue is confirmed. A provisional date for the next Steering Committee was also agreed for January 19th, probably in Coventry.

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