Wednesday 20 June 2007

Lewisham nomination

I was pleased that my nomination for Vice-President got such overwhelming support at Lewisham NUT’s General Meeting on Monday June 19th.

Of course, you might expect that Lewisham NUT members would support their own Divisional Secretary, but this vote was about much more than appreciation for my work supporting members in Lewisham.

The meeting had first unanimously passed the motion I proposed calling on the Union not to delay any longer in announcing that we will balloting for national action to oppose Johnson’s pay freeze (see leaflet on webpage) . By rejecting the “trigger” to review our pay award for 2006-8, and then insisting on a maximum 2% settlement for 2008-10, Johnson was effectively calling the NUT’s bluff. Will we now carry out our threat to ballot – or will we back away again?

That was the theme of many of the contributions in the discussion over nominations. Conference had voted unanimously for action – but was the leadership really serious in defending its members? Was it really serious in building united action with other unions? They knew Martin would be a President that would not back away.

In contrast, the material circulated from Roger King and Gill Goodswen failed to clearly spell out where they stood. After all, at the Harrogate Conference, some on the Left, including Gill, had voted against Lewisham’s amendment calling for national action over performance pay. Perhaps that was why Gill’s nomination only received one vote at the meeting. Ian Murch had even spoken against, warning delegates to have a ‘reality check’.

But the NUT members at the meeting knew exactly what reality for classroom teachers is like – long hours, divisive performance management and now a pay freeze. I was arguing for a clear program to build national action on these issues instead of the isolating school-by-school approach being adopted by the Union. That was why they supported my stand.

The argument about ‘splitting the left’ was put to the meeting. I understand the concerns – but I don’t accept the reasoning. Four years ago, there was a united slate of two Vice-President candidates – Roger and Baljeet – but neither was elected. Two years ago, there were three Left candidates – but instead of “splitting the vote”, Baljeet was elected.

In this election, there will also be three Left candidates and, with the transferable vote, my stand will help make sure at least one of us wins. The key factor is to have a platform that will attract teachers to return their vote – a platform that shows that they are voting for a President that will stand firm and give a real lead once elected too.

I am standing in this election to offer a platform that does offer a way forward for the Union. It was an approach that won the support of Lewisham teachers. I hope it can win the support of many other NUT members too. Most of all, I hope that my campaign can help make sure the Union starts to put policy into practice and builds the national action that we need to finally turn the tide in favour of teachers and education.

Martin Powell-Davies

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