Monday 25 June 2007

ALAN JOHNSON has thrown down the gauntlet

" ALAN JOHNSON has thrown down the gauntlet to the NUT. He knows that NUT Annual Conference voted unanimously to prepare to ballot for a national one day strike to protect teachers’ pay. But he has refused to review our below-inflation 2.5% award imposed for 2006-08. He has also made very clear that we can expect 2%, at best, for the next three years.

Imposing pay rises beneath inflation is cutting our salaries in real terms. In return for the long hours we put in to keep our schools going, he expects us to put up with a deteriorating standard of living.

Mortgages & rents, food & fuel bills, continue to rise. Too many colleagues, especially young staff, struggle with debt. We can’t afford to let the Government get away with robbery. The number of teachers leaving teaching every year is over 10%. Pay cuts will increase damaging turnover.

Teachers know the 2% pay limit is a threat to their salaries. They also know that performance pay - especially under the new regulations operating from September - can be just as big a threat. We need to inspire teachers to vote for action by campaigning for the Union’s full salary claim - a 10% increase in salary scales as well as the end of divisive performance-related pay.

But the Executive is still dithering about how to put Conference policy into action. May’s meeting agreed a ‘robust’ response was needed - but we’re still waiting for it. June’s meeting agreed we should ballot - but put off examining a timetable until July. When are we going to seize the time ?!

If the NUT allows Johnson to call its bluff and holds back from a ballot, the Government will simply gain confidence to step up its attacks - on workload and comprehensive education, as well as on salaries.

Surveys and petitions can help build the campaign but what will really galvanise members is a clear call to arms - by announcing the date for a strike ballot.

We should announce a ballot in September for a first day’s action against the failure to honour the inflation ‘trigger’. It would send a warning shot to the Review Body and help prepare members to take more action if they make an unacceptable award.

We cannot afford to wait for the NASUWT to come on board before we act. A September ballot would allow us to pursue joint action, first of all, with those unions that are serious about wanting to build unified action, like the PCS. The Executive needs to have confidence in its members that, with a firm campaign, teachers will vote for national action .

Martin Powell-Davies

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