Sunday, 27 November 2016

Turkish teachers urgently need our financial support

URGENT ACTION APPEAL - TURKEY: Request for action and financial solidarity 

Today, (Sunday November 27) a congress of the Turkish teachers' trade union EĞITIM-SEN is meeting to discuss how to respond to the attacks on its members. In particular, they are voting on an emergency increase in subscription rates to help support their members who have lost their income because of victimisation by their Government. Trade unionists internationally can - and must - help them too!

Last month, under the guise of a new Presidential emergency decree, over 10,000 public sector employees, including around 800 members of EĞITIM-SEN, were permanently dismissed from their jobs. Over 50,000 more are temporarily suspended from their work. 

As was explained at an emergency meeting held in Ankara the day before, President Erdogan claims these dismissals and suspensions are to combat the threat of 'terrorism' after the failed July coup. They are nothing of the sort. In reality, his increasingly dictatorial regime is using the State of Emergency to launch a 'counter-coup', labelling a 'terrorist' anybody who opposes his regime.

The meeting in Ankara was attended by representatives from a range of Turkish political parties and international trade unions, including myself for the NUT, as well as some of the dismissed colleagues who had travelled there from across the country.

We heard Kamuran Karaca, President of EĞITIM-SEN explain that the Government’s actions "are a huge lie. We do not support any coup or violent attacks. The attacks on our union are not for the reasons given. We know why we are targeted, because we stand for secular free education, for democratic principles and peace, because we won't accept this 'new Turkey' ".

Trade unionists, journalists, elected MPs and Mayors have been detained. Newspapers and media channels have been closed down.  

Trade unionists face some of the worst attacks. As the President of the KESK trade union federation explained to the international trade union delegates later (from the Education International, OLME (Greece), GEW (Germany) and the NUT), the suspensions and dismissals could yet herald even greater repression against trade unions in Turkey. The sackings and suspensions of union activists that have already taken place are meant to intimidate workers as a whole into quietly accepting further attacks to come, for example with the 2017 Budget expecting to mean further cuts to living standards.

I spoke to bring solidarity greetings on behalf of the NUT, recognising the critical role trade unions can play in building united struggle against attempts to divide-and-rule, and promising to publicise their struggle and provide concrete support.

There are many concrete steps we can all take to make that solidarity a reality, including protest letters and rallies but also, and urgently, providing financial support too. 

Around 800 EĞITIM-SEN members are suddenly faced with no income to support themselves and their families. Kamuran explained that the Union needs to raise about 2000 TL a month for each dismissed member. The Congress would be asked to support an increase in subs from 17 to 25 TL a month - nearly a 50% increase.

However, we can't allow our teacher colleagues in Turkey to shoulder this burden alone. I hope that national unions, local associations and individual colleagues will respond to the international appeal that has been launched through Education International and the ETUCE.

The appeal letter sent out by Fred van Leeuwen, EI General Secretary asks affiliates to:
1.      Send protest letters to the Turkish government, Turkish embassy in your country and your country’s embassy in Turkey in order to demonstrate that the international education community has not turned a blind eye to the Turkish authorities’ biased, undemocratic and discriminatory actions, and will continue to monitor the situation in the country.
2.      Organise demonstrations in front of the Embassy of Turkey in your country to raise awareness and promote trade union and human rights.
3.      Urge your Government to make all necessary efforts to put an end to endless arbitrary dismissals, investigations and arrests of Turkish education staff, and to recall that the Turkish government has committed itself to promoting freedom of expression, free speech and basic human rights and fundamental freedoms.
4.      Demonstrate financial solidarity with EĞITIM-SEN by making a contribution to the EI Solidarity Fund:   
IBAN: BE05 3101 0061 7075
Please indicate “UAA Egitim Sen” in communication.
Your contribution will ensure that legal assistance to Turkish education personnel in need can be provided sustainably via EĞITIM-SEN.

I will be reporting back to the National Union from my visit and to ask that we appeal for financial donations from across the NUT - and other TUC affiliates - to send to the EI so that they can be sent on to Egitim Sen for assistance as indicated above.
Let's build that real international solidarity !

Friday, 4 November 2016

School staff, parents and governors rally in London on 17 November to oppose school cuts

London schools face losses of over £600 million 

Today, in a separate press release (1), the NUT and ATL are announcing the launch of  (2) – an interactive map of England’s schools which shows the likely effect on every school of plans to redistribute the existing funding between schools in England. 

Those calculations indicate that London’s schools will be particularly badly hit if the Government maintains its plans to shift the already inadequate overall school funding around the country:

•             In London, we anticipate real terms cuts of 16% in Southwark, Lambeth and Hackney and of 15% in Haringey and Kensington & Chelsea.

•             Justine Greening’s own constituency of Putney should expect a 13% loss, or £740 per pupil. Jeremy Corbyn’s constituency (Islington North) faces a 10% loss or £577 per pupil.

•             Across the capital as a whole, the predicted real terms losses to school budgets total more than £600 million, equivalent to the loss of over 16,000 teachers.

•             Almost all (99%) of London’s schools could face budget cuts in real terms over the next four years.  One in eight London schools stands to lose over £1,000 per pupil from their budgets.

NUT holding London rally and demonstration on 17 November

School cuts of this magnitude will have a devastating effect on London’s schools. That’s why the NUT is calling a rally and demonstration on the evening of Thursday 17 November. Taking place in Westminster just a week before the Chancellor is announcing his autumn statement, our march is being called to make sure our ‘Invest, Don’t Cut’ message is clearly heard in Westminster.

Event details:

Demonstration assembling at 17:00 in Whitehall, opposite Downing Street.

March past Parliament and Department of Education to rally in Emmanuel Centre, SW1P 3DW.

Indoor Rally from 18:30. Speakers include Kevin Courtney (NUT General Secretary) and Jeremy Corbyn (Leader of the Labour Party).

London NUT calls on the Government to invest in education

As was confirmed in a Parliamentary answer this week (3), some schools are already facing severe budget difficulties. The NUT and ATL’s budget predictions indicate that many more schools will face a funding crisis, particularly in London, unless the Government acts urgently to inject additional funding.

Kevin Courtney, General Secretary, National Union of Teachers:

“No head teacher should be put in the position of increasing class sizes, leaving building repairs undone or cutting staff and resources simply to balance the books. Nor should any parent accept this for their child. We are one of the richest countries in the world. We can and we should be funding our schools properly.”

Martin Powell-Davies, London Regional Secretary, National Union of Teachers:

“We invite parents, governors and support staff to join teachers at our rally and call on the Government to invest in children’s future by increasing the overall funding for schools. If the Government fails to act, and instead simply seeks to redistribute an insufficient total budget, the consequences will be devastating, particularly in London.”  


The website enables users to see precisely how each individual school could be affected in real terms by the Government’s intention to implement a new funding formula for schools alongside real terms cuts to funding per pupil and cost increases being imposed by the Government.
By entering a post code on the website homepage, visitors can see how all the schools in that area are likely to fare between now and 2020 and how that estimated funding loss equates into numbers of teacher posts.

The formula used in the website is based on the Government’s own spending plans and school data, Institute for Fiscal Studies projections for the cost of inflation and other cost increases, and the new funding formula proposed by the influential f40 campaign group of local authorities.

3)            ‘Schools in debt as funding gap bites’