The decision by UCAC, the Welsh teaching Union to announce today that they will NOT be proceeding with national strike action on March 26 has raised concerns about whether there will be sufficient support for a similar decision being made when the NUT Executive meets for a Special Meeting tomorrow afternoon.
Certainly there have been other straws in the wind that have raised some alarm. A Local Associations survey asking for levels of support for the strike and a poster and a voicemail message from the NUT GS to members emphasising that the strike can be called off if Gove "negotiates seriously" have caused a level of confusion about the Union's strategy.
Worryingly, in a twitter exchange with UCAC, the prospect of 'serious negotiations' was exactly their reasoning for postponing strike action. In reply, I pointed out that calling off the strike risked throwing away the only lever that we had to make sure Gove does genuinely make concessions, rather than maintaining his insistence that talks can only be about 'implementation' of his policies.
At a nomination meeting tonight in Liverpool, I contrasted this approach with the strategy adopted by the late Bob Crow and the RMT on London Underground. After showing their strength in a solid 48 hour strike (even though ASLEF did not strike too), the prospect of a further 48 hour strike brought London Transport to the negotiating table and led the Tory press to complain that Mayor Johnson had capitulated. However, the dispute is not yet resolved.
A further postponement of action by the NUT, after a series of earlier postponements of national action, would not show strength but weakness. Gove would feel no pressure to concede on anything significant. NUT members would feel confused and active reps demoralised.
Let's hope that those fears are unfounded and that, unless there are very concrete promises of clear concessions - not just 'talks' - tomorrow's NUT Executive confirms the plan for the strike so that the whole Union can then go all out to build the kind of solid action that can make Gove think again.
The well-attended Liverpool meeting voted unanimously for a motion calling on the NUT Executive to confirm that, without real concessions, the strike should proceed on March 26 and, further, as the RMT did, the Union should announce further action to follow so that we demonstrate the seriousness of our determination to force Gove back.
The discussion also highlighted the need for the Union to mobilise around clear demands so that teachers know what we are trying to achieve - a point that I have emphasised in my campaign to win nominations to stand as a candidate in June's election for NUT General Secretary.
The meeting also unanimously voted to support my nomination which, once some other nominations are confirmed, should mean that I have at least now reached the minimum threshold of ten nominations required to trigger a contested election in June.