Saturday 30 October 2010

Beware - they want to break up our national conditions

The Government have announced that they are going to abolish the new School Staff Negotiating Body that was meant to agree national pay and conditions for support staff.

But teachers should beware, this is not just an attack on our support staff colleagues.

The Government announces spells out their intentions for ALL school staff: "The government has conducted a review of the future policy direction for determining school support staff pay and conditions, including the role of the SSSNB, and has concluded that the SSSNB does not fit well with the government's priorities for greater deregulation of the pay and conditions arrangements for the school workforce."

The Government wants to drive through cuts to our pay and conditions. Gove's plans for Academies and Free Schools are a key part in that drive to dismantle national condition.

Support London's firefighters

As Chair of SERTUC's Public Services Committee, I was pleased to chair a FBU Solidarity meeting on Thursday at Congress House that brought together support from a range of different trade unions and different boroughs across London.

The meeting proposed a range of practical measures to support the FBU, including asking for a draft message of support to be circulated that could be brought to picket lines on Monday 1st and/or on Friday 5th November.

I have circulated the following draft tonight:

Please accept this message of support to London's FBU members on behalf of

We believe that:
London FBU has been forced to take strike action in response to the disgraceful threat to sack over 5,000 fire-fighters unless you accept new worsened contracts.

Your strike shows how to respond when management tries to impose worsened conditions on staff, a tactic being tried out by a growing number of employers and Local Authorities as they seek to make cuts at the expense of their workforce.

Fire-fighters have every right to oppose changes to shift-patterns which would leave many families struggling to find childcare over extended day shifts.

This dispute is, however, about far more than shift changes. We recognise that the proposed changes are really designed to bring about a threat to every Londoner – the threat to cut emergency cover at night, the time when risks from fire are greatest.

Fire-fighters should not be vilified for standing firm when your employer refuses to negotiate but, instead, tries to break your action with badly trained strike-breakers.

Your excellent ballot result and solid strike action sets a clear example to all trade unionists how to stand together to fight attacks on jobs and public services.

We give you our support and pledge to organise as much concrete help and solidarity as we can to oppose the threat of mass sackings of fire-fighters.

I hope the letter also summarises some of the key arguments to take to trade union members in explaining why to support the FBU's action.

Health and safety reps may also find the following links from the ASLEF website useful in terms of some of the health and safety queries that were raised at the meeting:

Saturday 23 October 2010

Thousands march against the cuts in London and other cities

Thousands of trade unionists and community campaigners marched through London today to show that they weren’t about to sit back and let the Con-Dem cuts destroy our services.

See videos of march on: and

With marches taking place in many other cities, including over 20,000 in Edinburgh, October 23rd shows that the trade union movement is, at last, starting to turn words into action.

But today’s London protest would only have been the indoor rally at TUC Congress House if it hadn’t had been for the RMT, FBU, PCS and National Shop Stewards Network organising to make sure a march also took place.

I was proud to help make sure that the NUT also gave support, along with other London trade unions like the UCU, UNITE and CWU. Banners and flags from trade union branches and trades councils from across London were on the march, led by striking members of the FBU.

Bob Crow and Matt Wrack, General Secretaries of the RMT and FBU made stirring speeches at the rally that packed into Bedford Square.

Speaking for the NUT, I talked of the worker who had grabbed my leaflet at Euston, saying “at last someone is doing something”. But there must be 1000’s more workers like him angrily watching the news, seeing their jobs and benefits cut, also looking for a lead.

Today’s march can help serve notice on the Tories that it isn’t just Greek or French workers that fight – we’re going to fight in Britain too.

Today’s strike by London’s fire-fighters shows how to stand up against the bullies and axemen. We have to unite communities, build anti cuts alliances, link together workers, students and the unemployed, but, above all, united trade union action is vital.

I called for the National Executives of the unions that are ready to battle to meet together as soon as possible and name the date for a national demonstration BEFORE Christmas – not waiting until March like the TUC.

It’s no longer time just for words, it’s time to act. We must also meet and agree the day for a 24-hour strike – and organise co-ordinated ballots to make sure it takes place.

It’s time to make this Government think again about their vicious cuts!

Thursday 21 October 2010

Join the London March Against the Cuts on Saturday!

So teachers are meant to be grateful that education budgets have 'only' been cut by 3.4%! That is just one indication of the depth of the spending cuts announced by the Government yesterday.

The facts behind the 'spin' are that schools spending - including the pupil premium - will grow by just 0.1% per year in real-terms (or 0.4% in total). However, total pupil numbers will increase by an average of 0.7% per year so that the total schools spending per pupil will be cut in real-terms by 0.6% per year (total of 2¼%). To make up the overall 3.4% cut, other central services and grants will also be badly hit.

With 1/2 a million public sector jobs to go - plus a similar amount to follow from the private sector - along with cuts to benefits and further pay cuts to pay for pensions, these cuts are an attack on all of us.

However, the Lobby of Parliament on Tuesday and the lively march to Downing Street on Wednesday shows that trade unionists, students and community campaigns are starting to get organised (at last!)

On Saturday, teachers have another chance to show their anger against these cuts and to march with other trade unions - including striking fire-fighters - on the London demonstration backed by PCS, RMT, FBU, CWU, FBU, UCU, - and now UNITE - as well as many NUT branches.

This is a real opportunity to build the joint trade union action that we all know is going to be vital in the months ahead.

Please urge your members to come to the march, assembling at 11am at Chalton Street, NW1 - nearest tube Euston on Saturday.

Come early if you can - just in case there is any disruption to the tubes as a result of any health and safety action owing to the fire-fighters' strike.

We march down Gower Street to finish at Bedford Square. For those who can't then get into the SERTUC Rally inside Congress House from midday, there will be an ongoing 'overspill' rally in Bedford Square. Matt Wrack of the FBU and Bob Crow of the RMT will be among the speakers in the square.

The national NUT banner will be on the march, and Christine Blower will be speaking at the SERTUC Rally in Congress House. There will be some NUT placards and flags to give out - but please bring your local banners too.

Sunday 17 October 2010

Cuts Cost Lives - Support London's Firefighters

London's FBU members have voted by an overhwelming 79% majority in a 79% turnout to support strike action in defence of their conditions and London's fire service.

The first day of strike will be on Saturday October 23rd and FBU members will be stopping work at 10am to go straight to the joint trade union London 'No to Cuts' demonstration assembling at Chalton St, Euston at 11am.

a) Visit your local fire station and offer a message of support (see letter below).
b) Make sure you join the demonstration on Saturday - to say NO to the cuts that will have been announced by the Con-Dem Coalition on Wednesday - and to support London's firefighters as well.

Get your workmates and families, union branches and trades councils, youth and community campaigns to come along :

Saturday 23rd October
Assemble 11:00 am
outside RMT’s Unity House, 39 Chalton Street NW1 1JD
(off Euston Road, nearest tube Euston)

March to Bedford Square WC1B
to hear from Bob Crow (RMT), Matt Wrack (FBU) and other speakers,
then join the SERTUC rally in Congress House starting at 12 noon.

Here is my message of support to the FBU:

Please pass on this message of support to London's FBU members on my behalf and, I am sure, on behalf of NUT members across the Inner London boroughs that I represent.

Your excellent ballot result is a clear message to your employers that firefighters will not be bullied by threats of sackings and pay deductions. It also sends a clear example to other trade unionists how to stand together to fight the attacks on jobs and public services.

It is quite clear to the NUT that this dispute is not just about contracts, although the threatened changes to shift patterns would, alone, give you every justification to take action to defend the conditions of firefighters and their families who will struggle to find childcare over such extended day shifts. We understand that it is also about pushing through cuts to our fire service and preparing the ground for closing fire stations. I hope that we can help spread this message to teachers and schools.

We know that no fire-fighter lightly takes strike action and that you face an employer prepared to organise strike-breaking measures to undermine your action. However, with trade unionists around London facing their own attacks on jobs and services, you can be confident that London trade unionists will support your struggle.

Please do keep in contact about solidarity measures that we can help put in place and I look forward to seeing teachers and firefighters marching together on the London demonstration on 23 October.

Thursday 14 October 2010

We're not accepting pay cuts to 'protect' school budgets

Discussions at the three-day NUT Divisional Secretaries Briefing confirmed the growing threat to national pay agreements – specifically the attempt by some local Authorities to, not only freeze points on the pay scale, but also to block any progression up the pay scale.

As reported in Classroom Teacher, the Tory Bury Council has already announced that it intends to impose this attack on its centrally-employed teachers and advisers. Other Divisions – including the NUT in Labour-run Greenwich – have reported the same threats being raised.

Unfortunately, it appears that advisory staff on Soulbury conditions may have fewer legal challenges to this attack than teachers employed under the Schoolteachers Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD). Nevertheless, the NUT are considering a Judicial Review on the one hand. On the other, affected staff in Bury will soon be sent an indicative ballot paper to judge support for industrial action.

However, as we feared, this could just be the start. The NAHT has written a letter to Michael Gove opposing cuts to schools. However, one of its main requests is that Gove should change the STPCD to enable 'freedom to save and protect schools'. In other words, teachers will be blackmailed into accepting cuts to pay in order to save jobs. Teacher unions must unite in opposing this kind of false choice – especially at a time when teachers are already threatened with cuts to child benefit, pension increases and a pay freeze.

Together, we must take action to oppose cuts to pay and jobs – and demand that the Government invests in public services and stops attacking those of us who work to provide those services. The parasitic finance speculators who caused this crisis, and who do nothing to provide genuine services for our communities, should pay for their crisis, not us.

Tuesday 12 October 2010

Build the Week of Action Against Spending Cuts


Next week, the Government's Spending Review will confirm the devastating cuts that are to be imposed on Local Authorities like Lewisham.

Yet these cuts will fall on a borough which already has the HIGHEST NUMBER OF CLAIMANTS CHASING EACH VACANCY in the whole United Kingdom. For a borough like Lewisham with such a reliance on public sector employment, the council cuts will make matters even worse.

That's why the NUT, along with other supporters of the Lewisham Anti-Cuts Alliance (LACA), will be building two important events next week as part of the TUC's Week of Action against these cuts:

On WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 20th, at 7pm at Goldsmiths Students Union, Lewisham Anti-Cuts Alliance will be holding a public meeting on "How do we Fight the Cuts". Martin Powell-Davies, NUT Secretary, will be speaking on behalf of Lewisham Anti-Cuts Alliance along with representatives of anti-cuts campaigns from across Lewisham and other neighbouring London boroughs.

On SATURDAY OCTOBER 23rd, members of LACA will join the NUT and other unions on the all-London "No to Cuts" demonstration, called by six London Regional Trade Unions and marching from RMT's Headquarters near Euston to a rally in Bedford Square. It will be addressed by Bob Crow of the RMT and Matt Wrack of the FBU before marchers proceed to the SE Region TUC Rally in Congress House, Great Russell Street.

Saturday 9 October 2010


Governors at Tidemill Primary School in Lewisham have just issued a consultation paper seeking support for converting to Academy status. But many in the local community - backed by Lewisham NUT - are determined to oppose this threat to comprehensive education.

The parents' campaign has already succeeded in winning this consultation - at first, the proposal was due to be pushed through over the summer without proper discussion. Now we have a chance to push the proposal out altogether - but only if we mobilise as much support as we can.

That's why Lewisham NUT are calling on NUT members and other colleagues to support the campaign by going door-to-door with campaign materials, petitions and model letters.

We hope you can help by coming on:
SATURDAY 16 OCTOBER 10.30 am  at Deptford Project Cafe, Deptford High Street - or, if late, meet campaigners on the stall in the market.
SUNDAY 17 OCTOBER 11 am Deptford Rail station, Deptford High Street

NAHT abandons SATs boycott

To the anger of some of its own members who had bravely taken part in the 2010 boycott of Key Stage 2 SATs, the NAHT's National Council have announced that they WON'T be balloting for any SATs boycott in 2011.

The NAHT argue that the boycott should be halted now that it has been offered a review of primary assessment by the new Government. It's certainly true that the joint NUT/NAHT boycott helped forced the Government to announce this review - but, without any guarantee that Gove will recommend an end to SATs, the boycott should have continued.

The NAHT decision puts the NUT in a difficult position. The overwhelming arguments against SATS remain, but the small proportion of schools covered by NUT Heads mean that a continuing boycott would only cover a few schools and Heads, along with Year 6 teachers, could fear isolation if they were to act alone.

However, there may be areas of the country where NUT Heads - perhaps in conjunction with disgruntled NAHT Heads switching to the NUT - could be balloted for a contining boycott. Certainly, the campaign against SATS must continue amongst parents too.

Let me know what teachers in your school think that the NUT should do now.

Thursday 7 October 2010

Hutton: Work for longer, pay more but receive less pension

THE NUT NATIONAL EXECUTIVE met on the day that the Hutton Commission released its first report. Our message to the Government must be clear - we are not going to accept any worsening of our pensions.

Firm recommendations have not yet been made - but the threats to our pay and pensions are clear:
Across Europe, Governments are pushing for increased retirement ages - so that we have to work longer, then have fewer years left to draw our pension. Fearful of the opposition this might meet, Hutton has not recommended any specific increase. However, this will be the Government’s plan if we don’t act.
Hutton’s ‘short-term’ recommendation is that we pay a higher proportion of our pay towards our pension - i.e. we take a pay cut instead of just a pay freeze!

But Hutton admits that expenditure on pensions “will remain close to current levels” based on existing agreements. In other words, it’s not that our pensions have suddenly become unaffordable. No, the hole in Government finances is down to the huge cost of paying off the bankers’ ‘gambling debts’. Our higher contributions wouldn’t be paying for our pensions - but to pay off their debts.

We must not let ourselves be robbed in the same way as many private sector employees who have seen their employers renege on pension agreements. Instead of allowing a ‘race to the bottom’ on cutting pensions, we have to stand together and demand decent pensions for all.
The Government has already announced that it will now calculate pension changes using the lower-rated Consumer Price Index (CPI) instead of the RPI. This change alone will cost a teacher retiring on a £10,000 pension over £35,000 over the course of the average retirement. This is just the start.

Hutton says he is worried about the ‘unfairness’ of the teachers’ ‘final-salary’ pension schemes - which benefit staff who are promoted towards the end of their careers - and wants to examine ‘career average’ schemes instead. If it was just a matter of making technical changes to recalculate pension payouts, then the pros and cons could be examined. But ‘career-average’ salaries need to be based on a realistic index-linking to take account of inflation throughout a working lifetime - not the CPI. So, if it’s not done correctly, a ‘career average’ could easily just mean reduced pensions in retirement.

He also complains that our pensions are “a barrier to non-public service providers ... and innovation in public service delivery”. In short, privateers want to pay less! Another reason to oppose Academies.
Hutton’s caution, in not making firm proposals, shows that he, and the Coalition, are not confident that they can force through these threats. They know that the last Government was forced to retreat by the threat of united trade union action - and we must make clear that we are ready to fight again!

If the Government detects any sign of weakness, they will push ahead with their pension attacks. We have to build our own ‘coalition’ of opposition - and prepare joint industrial action to defend pensions.

National Executive discusses threats to pay, jobs and pensions

With Hutton's first report on pensions out this morning, a lot of today' s National Executive meetings were spent discussing the implications of Hutton's Report - and how the NUT should respond.

There were also many other important discussions and reports, in particular on:
  • SATS - how do we maintain our campaign now that the NAHT have voted to withdraw their boycott action?
  • National Conditions under threat - worrying reports from several Local Authorities where centrally-employed staff are being told that there will be NO incremental progression up the pay spine.
  • Cuts - congratulations to centrally-employed NUT members in Islington who are being balloted for action to oppose redundancies and cuts to vital education services
  • Week of Action - both the London demonstrations on October 20th and October 23rd were highlighted in the General Secretary's Report
A summary of Hutton's report is posted separately

Sunday 3 October 2010

Europe on the march!

I was privileged to be able to be part of the NUT's delegation to the all-European march against austerity in Brussels last week.

It was a fantastic feeling to be part of a 100,000-plus demonstration of trade unionists from across Europe - Romanian police officers, Hungarian military officers, masses of French and Belgian unions in their union colours, RMT flags and other British union banners ...

Now we have to build for a mass demonstration next year in London - as a preparation for united strike action against cuts and attacks on our pensions and public services.

The London demonstration on October 23rd is a step on the way to building that united response - I hope to see you there!

LONDON 'STOP THE CUTS' DEMONSTRATION - supported by NUT, UCU, PCS, RMT, FBU, NSSN and campaign groups across London:
Assemble outside RMT's Unity House at 11am,
March to Bedford Square, WC1 - speakers include Bob Crow (RMT) and Matt Wrack (FBU)
- move on to SERTUC rally in Congress House from midday