Friday 21 May 2010

They're getting ready for battle - are we?

The FT today spells out exactly what the financiers and bankers expect from their new Government:

"The full terms of their coalition reveal that one set of voluntary organisations should be afraid. Before the election, the coalition parties aimed to avoid a direct confrontation with the unions. They now appear braced for a pitched battle.
The government must rein in a fiscal deficit of 11.1 per cent of output. Public jobs and pay must bear the brunt of spending cuts. In the state sector, 68 per cent of employees are bound by collective pay agreements.
The parties’ manifestos suggested plans to outflank the unions. They wanted to force through tight pay settlements while undermining the unions by contracting out an increased share of public services to private providers. The coalition agreement sets out a path to direct confrontation.
Employment terms for the police will be reviewed. A commission will investigate whether public sector pensions are affordable. These consultations are certain to recommend cuts. The coalition is using them to buy political cover to slash overtime hours, pay, perks and pensions.
More explosively, the new government intends to attack national pay bargaining. It wants to “reform the existing rigid national pay and conditions rules…” for schools. If anything, the coalition’s ambition should be greater. National pay bargaining is a problem well beyond education.
The coalition must prepare itself for the battle ahead. Organised labour has seen off British governments before. If this administration is to prevail, it must have a clear strategy to tackle the pay rigidities of state employees that damage both the public and private sectors".

The coalition is getting itself ready for a battle - so must we.

It goes without saying that we have to prepare for any action before issuing any ballot. However, we have to make clear straight away from the June NUT National Executive that a national ballot for strike action will be taken to answer a threat to remove protect national pay and conditions. When the Government makes a threat like that, we have to quickly and sharply make clear that we will firmly respond.

The exact details of the attacks to come will become clearer in the months ahead but we need to get on the front-foot and start to prepare the call for the action that will be needed now - and approaching other unions for support in advance.The National Union needs to start now by setting the tone, making clear that we are preparing for national action, organising local and regional meetings to explain the threats we face.

Local campaigns linking together unions in anti-cuts committees are important to develop, actions around budget day on June 22nd will help too. What can also really hit the headlines and mobilise members in the short-term  is a major national demonstration against the cuts and attacks - as we agreed to call for at Annual Conference.

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