Sunday 20 June 2010

Con-Dems prepare their Cuts Budget: Build Joint National Action

The National Executive met before the June 22 Budget but it was clear that the Government was planning to make public sector workers pay for the costs of a crisis that was none of our making. By the time you read this Report, you may already know exactly what cuts have been announced. Do they propose the same kind of attacks as Irish workers have faced where a 7% pensions levy and a 5% pay cut have added up to a 12% cut in incomes for some public sector workers?

Those cuts may have helped renew ‘confidence’ - i.e. bankers’ profits - but, as a TUC pamphlet given to the Executive points out, have done nothing to revive Ireland’s economy. The same will be true in Britain. We have to mount a joint struggle to defend our living standards - and to prevent cuts that will only further undermine the economy and cut jobs and vital services.

This Government threatens teachers and other workers with cuts and privatisation. We have to respond - and quickly. We must organise joint action linking together different unions - and build support in our communities.

Within the Executive - and the Union as a whole - there is a serious debate about what action to call, and when. My own view is that we have to send a clear signal to Government that we aren’t accepting these attacks - by saying that we will ballot for national strike action. We should set a date for a ballot next term and urgently start the work in schools to make sure that we win it.

No firm timetable was set at the June meeting but the Executive agreed unanimously to an amendment calling on a new emergency committee to be given the job of:
* Developing an action strategy, up to and including local and national strike action, as part of the Union’s campaign against academies, cuts, attacks on pay & pensions and other government actions.
* Co-ordinating action with other unions when possible
* As a first task, considering action to meet the immediate challenges of Academies and the Budget.

As the amendment states, local and national action can both play their part. We will certainly support ballots for action in schools facing cuts or where governors want them to become Academies. But it will be other schools in a Local Authority that will also be hit as Free Schools and Academies take away vital funding and undermine pupil admissions in neighbouring schools. That’s why I suggested that we might ballot members across the whole of an Authority - to defend the whole Authority. This strategy will now also be considered.

In preparation for joint national action, the NUT, PCS and other unions are urging the TUC to call a national demonstration. We hope that firm plans can be agreed soon. Locally as well, NUT branches should link-up with other unions to plan joint activities against cuts.

The National Executive meets again on July 14/15. Let me know your views on the action we should call for.

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