Tuesday 10 July 2007


Our Union correctly challenged Alan Johnson to
“honour” the commitment to review our 2006 and 2007
pay awards if inflation went over the 3.25% “trigger”.
He refused and then made clear we could expect 2% up
until 2011 to boot ! The Government had called the
NUT’s bluff and waited to see how we responded.
The Union promised a “robust response” but June’s NUT
Executive put off a decision on a national ballot
timetable until July. But now we have been told what
the General Secretary is proposing that timetable
should be - to wait until JANUARY 2008 before we take
action !
This delay will only confirm fears that the Union is
failing to grasp the nettle and call the national
action agreed unanimously back at the Easter
Conference. The supposed ‘unity’ at the June Executive
to commit to a ballot for action “in the Autumn Term”
can now be seen as a way to gloss over two very
different approaches to action.
Steve Sinnott’s proposal is to delay a ballot until
December, after the Review Body reports in early
November, and hope to then get the NASUWT aboard for
joint action in the New Year. But that delay risks
losing the momentum that is building up, frustrating
members who are ready to support action now and, most
of all, prevents us from linking up with unions that
are really serious about taking national action in the
Autumn like the PCS. Why wait for the Review Body to
confirm 2% or thereabouts?
The right approach, as I have been arguing for in my
campaign, is to hold a ballot in September, before the
Review Body reports. This is the only way to protest
against the failure to honour the “trigger” and to
apply real pressure to the Review Body to meet our
demands for a 10% pay rise and for the end of
performance pay.
An early ballot would also help us coordinate action
with other public sector unions and apply the same
kind of pressure that persuaded the Government to
retreat over pensions. It would also be the best way
of pushing the NASUWT into action. A united public
sector strike would be a huge confidence boost for
trade unionists and a blow to Gordon Brown’s prestige.
Of course, that could be the very reason why some
union leaders are holding back.
Unfortunately, some people have accused me of
exaggerating differences over the pay ballot timetable
simply for ‘electioneering’ purposes. But the
differences are very real - and too important for the
future of teachers’ salaries to simply wish away. As I
have said before on this blog, nothing would have
pleased me more than to be proved wrong and for the
Union to agree on an early ballot after all.
Unfortunately, members’ fears that the Union is
“dithering” will only be strengthened if the July 18th
Executive meeting votes to delay action until the New
A delayed ballot will be a setback. NUT Divisions will
have to find ways to maintain the campaign throughout
the Autumn Term such as organising joint rallies with
other public sector unions. A national demonstration
against the pay freeze, as the PCS are proposing to
the TUC in September, would help sustain the momentum.
But when Linda Taaffe suggested this at the June NUT
Executive she could hardly find any other support!
One thing is clear – that this Union needs a fighting
leadership. That’s why I am challenging to be
Vice-President. I hope my campaign can encourage
classroom teachers, reps and local officers to get
organised to build a Union locally and nationally that
is ready and willing to stand up firmly for teachers
and education.

Martin Powell-Davies

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree with everything Martin says. As a delegate at the last conference I remember the feeling of excitement and solidarity that was generated by the UNANIMOUS yes vote in the pay campaign debate. There is a real danger of that momentum being completely lost, (it's already been badly damaged by the executive's dithering - yes, Steve Sinnott I think you ARE dithering!) and the membership being disenchanted by the lack of adherence to mandated policy.

It seems we have an executive that are happy to associate themselves with charismatic leaders from other unions when it suits their purposes for posturing at conference, but will not take the tough decisions that might interfere with their manoeuvring to be in our new PM's pocket.

Gordon Brown must be laughing all the way to the Cabinet Office at the fact that one more potential fly in his political ointment has had its wings clipped. It's a damned shame that the wings have been clipped by our own executive! Maybe they have an 'Icarus' complex - they're too frightened that they'll fly into the sun if they allow any kind of take-off!

It's more than time that this union had the leadership its membership wants and deserves - one that remembers that DEMOCRATIC means that you do what the majority (in this case an overwhelming majority) of the electorate directs.

If Martin's entry into the vice-presidential election fray has the effect of re-focussing the executive to this end, then it's a hugely successful campaign. I suspect it won't, unfortunately, in which case I hope the membership (and Left alliances) get behind him and elect a vice-president that is committed to carrying out MEMBERS' policy rather than their own, self-serving, watered down compromises.

On the subject of 'compromise' - I can almost hear Steve Sinnott protesting that - as leader of a major National Union, he has to be prepared to make statesmanlike compromises to further the cause of his members. Yes, Steve - bit there's a huge difference between statesmanlike compromise and timid compliance - and I think you've crossed the line!

David Plews, NUT rep, Deptford Park Primary School, Lewisham, London