Friday, 29 August 2014

October 14 strike - National Executive to debate NUT participation next week

Support staff unions UNISON, GMB and UNITE have, true to their word, called further strike action on October 14 to build on the co-ordinated action of July 10, with UNISON extending their ballot to include many academies as well. Next week, on Friday September 5th, the NUT Executive meets to decide if the National Union of Teachers will also be joining that action.

July 10 in Trafalgar Square
As I posted earler in August (, "surely, as on July 10, the NUT must take strike action alongside these trade union colleagues again. 

The July 10 strike had a significant impact with well-supported rallies in towns and cities across England and Wales. I don't think that it was any coincidence that, soon after, David Cameron decided it was time to ditch Michael Gove from his post as Education Secretary. That decision should give teachers renewed confidence that, with a clear plan of continuing action, we can force Cameron to change policy too - not just personnel.

It was the mass co-ordinated strike of November 30 2011 that forced the Government to concede the limited - if insufficient - gains that we were able to make over pensions - such as protection for the over-50s. Further mass co-ordinated action provides the best opportunity to force further concessions from the government - particularly in the lead-up to the General Election. It is an opportunity we have to take".

However, the outcome of the Executive meeting is not certain. In particular, there may be some arguing that we cannot call further action until the 'affirmative ballot' consultation of the national membership has been completed. 

The timing of that consultation has now been set to run from late September, closing just before a Special Meeting of the Executive meets to consider the responses on October 23rd. This timescale has the benefit of giving sufficient time to alert members to the importance of responding positively to the ballot but does, of course, mean that the consultation will not be finished in time to influence any decision over action on October 14.

I hope that, on reflection, those on the Executive who were arguing in July that we cannot call further action until the consultation has concluded will reconsider and back the NUT joining action in October. We have to take account of the specific circumstances we face and, in line with Conference policy, be "seeking to co-ordinate with other education and public sector unions where possible and showing flexibility to any timescales they may have".

As I posted previously, "the fact that October 14 has now been called as a joint strike day must surely now be paramount - even if consultation on further strike action is still ongoing ... not to do so would not only weaken the NUT's hand, it would also undermine other unions, not least our support staff colleagues" 

Indeed, if the Executive were to vote against participation in the October action, the NUT delegation at TUC Congress the following week would have some difficult questions to answer - and I don't think they could be satisfactorily answered. When unions are coming together to co-ordinate strike action, very probably with the backing of Congress as a whole, then the NUT has to be taking a full part in that co-ordinated action.

In the next few days, NUT members should contact their Executive members to make their views known. Hopefully, they can be reassured that we will be able to start to prepare for joint action alongside support staff colleagues in October, working together to build on the July action, identifying less-organised workplaces that can be brought into action this time.

NUT reps and Local Associations should also start to alert colleagues to look out for the consultation materials - starting with preliminary information that should be arriving with their copy of the Union's 'Teacher' magazine that is being issued in mid-September.

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