Thursday, 22 May 2014

NUT National Executive Report - Prepare for co-ordinated action on July 10

Prepare for action on July 10 - and beyond

This afternoon's meeting of the NUT National Executive agreed a Campaign Report with recommendations that included the following (verbatim when in quotation marks):

UPDATE: Between posting this report and coming home, I've had a number of confused calls from reps who have read that "we have called the strike off for talks". Let's be clear, where perhaps the Union's official press release hasn't been, that was not the tone of the discussion at today's Executive at all. Of course, if 'talks' suddenly started to produce real movement, the Executive would have to consider its response at the June meeting - but with Gove still sticking to his claim that talks can only be about 'implementation' this is highly unlikely. I voted for this decision - and I'm sure other Executive members did too - in order to seek to achieve a stronger, broader action across school staff unions and beyond on July 10th - not because we're stepping back!

So, once again, here's what we agreed:
  • "Make preparations to give notice for strike action on 10 July" - the day that support staff unions balloting for action on pay have put forward as the date when they hope to be able to call a co-ordinated strike.
  • It was also reported that other public sector unions - e.g. the PCS - with live ballots already in place are also discussing the possibility of co-ordinating action too.
  • We continue to build the campaign stalls, Education Question Time events, Lobby of Parliament on 10 June and for the People's Assembly national demonstration on 21 June.
  • "Continue the Action Short of Strike Action with a view to a re-launch in September"
  • Work in Regions and Divisions to make plans to build support for our campaigns and turnout in the ongoing industrial action.
  • "Continue discussions with other local government/education unions in relation to ongoing campaigning and industrial action".
  • "Consult local officers and members on patterns of further strike action in the autumn term, including through surveys of reps and random samples of members to be conducted after 10 July". 
NUT Conference agreed that such consultation would "include putting the case for such action to members" - and reassurances were given that the June Executive meeting could discuss the draft content of any survey before it was issued (as well as getting an update on talks with government and news from other unions). 

Importantly, it was recommended by officers that the survey results be reported to the July National Executive - in time to make sure we could - if agreed - make plans for further action earlier in the autumn term, perhaps alongside other unions too.

Of course, at the same time another 'survey' of members will be taking place - the election for NUT General Secretary. I have consistently argued for the Union to announce a calendar of ongoing strike action, mobilising members around a clear set of campaign demands. I believe that the support for that demand will be reflected in support for my candidature in June's GS election.

Holidays - don't divide parents and teachers

A short but important discussion took place on the Salaries Committee in response to a letter from the RMT pointing out the difficulties facing rostered and shift workers in taking family holidays when their leave might only be made available to them during term time. This is a problem also facing many other working families and, as was raised in discussion, similar pressures also face migrant families as well.

In the past, many schools would have taken a more relaxed attitude to requests to take children out of school for holidays or overseas visits. Now, with schools under immense pressure to achieve both ever-improving exam results and attendance rates, more Heads are refusing to authorise absence requests with, under new legislation, some parents facing fines as a result.

This draconian approach amounts to discrimination against working-class families who are unable to choose the timing of their annual leave - and ignores the benefits of families being able to have such a break together. As the actual government guidance says, head teachers will want to consider "the frequency of the request; whether the parent gave advance notice; and the pupil's attainment (sic), attendance and ability to catch up on missed schooling". 

Surely it would be better for parents and schools to come up with suitable arrangements for students to try and catch up on missed schooling rather than to threaten fines and unreasonably refuse holidays?

Above all, the NUT needs to make clear to the RMT, other trade unions and parents, that we do not back a draconian approach being taken towards holidays - and that we will not allow the issue to become a way that Government legislation can be used to divide parents from teachers.

Finally ... Norway

My thanks to Christine Blower for reporting that she will be visiting Norwegian Teacher Unions shortly - allowing me to point out the threat to their negotiating rights, pay, pensions and conditions which, if not resolved this weekend, will result in selective strike action starting across Norway on Monday. Christine agreed that she would bring the support of the NUT to our Norwegian colleagues.

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