Sunday, 18 May 2014

Campaign, Co-Ordinate, Escalate - a report from LANAC's Steering Committee

Keeping up the Momentum 

Twenty delegates and observers from fourteen different NUT Associations met in Coventry yesterday for LANAC's first national Steering Committee since Easter's NUT Conference (Those in attendance were from Lewisham, Rotherham, Central Notts, Dudley, Coventry, East London, Northampton, Central Bedfordshire, Hackney, Bristol, Barking and Dagenham, Leeds and  Warwickshire NUT Associations).

Together with the apologies given from others busy at other NUT events and/or campaigning activities, this wide-ranging turnout confirmed that the Local Associations National Action Campaign is maintaining the momentum we generated at Annual Conference. LANAC's call for a calendar of ongoing strike action became a central part of Easter's debates - and will remain a key issue in the ongoing discussions about how to achieve our campaign objectives. 

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Campaign

First and foremost, we all agreed that LANAC needed to do everything it could to build the Union's immediate campaigning activities this term. As explained in our post-Conference bulletin, these include campaign stalls, the Parliamentary Lobby on 10th June and the People's Assembly demonstration on 21st June. Reports included confirmation of coaches being booked for the London demo, plans for both local lobbying and lobbying in Parliament on June 10th, as well as local campaign stalls and pre-strike rallies with parents.

Co-Ordinate

Of course, getting agreement to release colleagues to attend a Lobby is not always straightforward. To generate enthusiasm, the campaigning activities have to be linked to a wider plan to build for further strike action. That enthusiasm will hopefully be strengthened by the confirmation that support staff unions are also balloting for strike action over pay. 

I understand that UNISON's ballot opens on May 23rd and closes a month later and that, if members vote 'Yes', then, as the TES reported today, July 10th is the date being discussed as the first one-day strike in their ongoing campaign.

( http://news.tes.co.uk/b/news/2014/05/16/teachers-and-support-staff-could-strike-together-in-july.aspx )
With NUT Conference agreeing that we should show 'flexibility' on the timescale for our own one-day strike this term, this raises a real prospect of joint strike action by both teachers and support staff members at the end of term. Other unions like the PCS and FBU may also consider taking action alongside us too. 

[UPDATE: The GMB have also confirmed that they are following their succesful indicative ballot with a full strike ballot - it will also be completed in time to allow co-ordination with others in July and the PCS Conference has also voted to consult over taking co-ordinated action too]

Obviously, support staff unions first have to win their ballot - and teachers can play a role in encouraging their colleagues to vote. Hopefully, the prospect of a joint strike will encourage support staff to vote for action. It would certainly have a bigger impact in closing schools than if unions strike separately on different days. It would also help build unity across school staff. As I said to the TES, it will also ask questions of the NASUWT leadership who, let's hope, might also agree to take action given the continuing lack of any obvious 'progress' in talks with Ministers and their DfE officials.

As the discussion at the LANAC meeting illustrated, there are still some complications with co-ordinating action. UNISON have not balloted Academies at this stage, although I understand that they have plans to do so in time for them to be included in any further action after the summer holidays. July 10th is also very close to the end of term in some Local Authorities and, if there is a chance for unions to discuss further before final legal notices are issued, a slightly earlier date might be beneficial. However overall, LANAC's meeting agreed that the benefits of co-ordinated action still outweighed these difficulties.

The NUT Executive will be meeting on Thursday (May 22nd) to confirm the Union's decision. 

Escalate

The prospect of co-ordinated action before the summer break also raises the prospect of further co-ordinated action next term too. Certainly the UNISON Local Government newsletter sent to its branches makes clear that 10 July is planned to be "the first one-day strike as part of a programme of action". After all, other unions besides the NUT are also drawing conclusions about the need for a calendar of escalating action if they are to have a real impact on their employers.

It would be inexcusable to allow a situation to arise where other unions were looking to escalate action after the summer break but to find that the NUT, with all its potential strength, were holding back from action. Unfortunately, that would be the case if the Executive insisted on a long series of 'surveys' at the beginning of  the Autumn Term. 

Despite warnings from some delegates supporting LANAC, NUT Conference did vote for a clause which could be interpreted as requiring such a delay. However, the actual wording instructed the Executive to "consult with members about a series of strikes ... this should include putting the case for such action to members and consulting with them through random representative surveys and fact-finding from divisions, associations and regional briefings". This leaves flexibility for a range of consultation methods, not just 'surveys,' and could - and should - start this term.

LANAC's Committee recommended that members of the NUT Executive press for an earlier consultation process to allow the NUT to be ready to escalate action without unnecessary delay, particularly if the prospect of earlier co-ordination arises on a date or dates nearer the beginning of the Autumn Term. We also believe that our proposal of a calendar of escalating action, including the possibility of two-day strikes, should be an important option discussed with members as part of any consultation. 

To be convinced to strike, members need to know that they are giving up pay for a reason. That means showing colleagues that they are taking part in action that is of sufficient strength to be able to win serious concessions from this Government.

Organising LANAC

The Committee also discussed a number of other proposals to organise LANAC including:
  • Setting a date for another LANAC Committee (provisionally October 4th) which, according to our rules, will also elect Steering Committee Officers (thanks were given to both Julie Lyon Taylor and Sally Kincaid who will be standing down as Chair and Vice-Chair).
  • Contacting Associations to invite reaffiliations - and new affiliations! - for 2014/15. The present annual affiliation fee of £10 will remain for now but we will discuss increasing this at our 'AGM' in October.
  • Planning a Conference later in the Autumn Term with a theme around organising strong Associations and supporting reps
  • Encouraging local LANAC meetings to bring together and support reps on a local basis
  • After the successful initiative in Brighton 2014, booking a 'LANAC' hotel for the 2015 Conference in Harrogate and also circulating draft motions in line with LANAC's agreed aims and policies
  • Finally, of course, plans were made for winning support for the candidates backed by LANAC for the GS and DGS - Martin Powell-Davies and Patrick Murphy.

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