Tuesday 19 July 2011

Build Co-Ordinated Action in the Autumn - Lobby the TUC!

Assemble 1:30 pm for Rally 
in Friends' Meeting House, Euston
Speakers: Mark Serwotka, Bob Crow and other leading trade unionists

An excellent meeting last night,  hosted by the National Shop Stewards Network in London, brought together a platform of leading trade unionists in the capital from the CWU, FBU, RMT, PCS - and myself from the NUT - to discuss how we build for joint action in the Autumn.

Update: VIDEO of meeting on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8qQ_PDq3Es

It had been another day dominated by news of further resignations and revelations exposing lies and corruption amongst the press, police and politicians. It may have taken our pensions action off the front-pages but it should give trade unionists confidence that, when we return to action, it leaves us facing a discredited and weakened Government.

Mark Palfrey (CWU), Ben Sprung (FBU) and Steve Hedley (RMT) all explained the particular attacks in their industries - over cuts, privatisation and pensions. Importantly, they all held out the definite prospect that their unions might be able to proceed to co-ordinate action with the NUT and other unions in October / November.

Chris Baugh from the PCS and I outlined the success of June 30 and  our unions' plans for further co-ordinated action in the Autumn. We both warned about the 'divide-and-rule' tactics from Government, intending to split united public-sector opposition into separate scheme-specific negotiations and deals.

Unfortunately, some unions seemed prepared to go down that route, running the risk that they would settle on a poor 'deal' that damages every other scheme's negotiations at the same time. For example, they might win a slight reduction in contribution increases (although perhaps at the expense of other schemes), but would accept the unacceptable increase of the retirement age to 68 and the change from RPI to CPI .

The TUC Conference - taking place in London in September - has to be put under maximum pressure to stop unions striking separate deals but, instead, uses its influence to call on all public sector unions to strike together in co-ordinated action - in short, for a 24-hour public sector general strike.

That's why I'll be calling on teachers and other trade unionists to build the Lobby of the TUC on 11 September, starting with a mass rally in Friends Meeting House, 173 Euston Road, NW1 at 1.30 pm.

Teachers, enjoy the summer break - and return ready for action !

ATL NUT UCU Joint Statement on the Pensions Campaign

The industrial action our members took on 30 June was a success and made clear to the government the extent of anger within the profession.

It had a positive impact on public opinion and in particular exposed as simply untrue attempts by the government to present public sector pensions as unaffordable.

Strike action for any educator is always a last resort. That is why we remain committed to a negotiated solution, if possible, to the dispute over the Teachers’ Pension Scheme (TPS).

Following the recent TUC-led discussions, detailed talks will now be held on each public sector scheme including our TPS.

Unfortunately there appears to be a real danger that the government may impose an arbitrary and unfair ceiling on what they are prepared to spend to support teachers’ pensions.

In our view, without real negotiations on this key issue, these talks will be a sham - the only issue to be decided being how much more teachers will pay, and how much longer they will have to work to secure inferior benefits.

The government wants to set this limit even while still refusing to provide a new valuation of the Teachers’ Pension Scheme. Indeed it is now beginning to consult on the first stage of contribution increases for TPS members.

All education trade unions that are involved in negotiations over TPS (ATL, ASCL, NAHT, NASUWT, NUT, UCAC & UCU) have met today and started the process of drawing up joint campaigning plans for the Autumn. Our aim in all this activity will be simple: to persuade government to negotiate in good faith.

We hope, as we know you hope, that this will result in government listening to teachers and agreeing to genuine negotiations. However if government will not budge from its current position those trade unions who have already taken action (ATL NUT and UCU) will, with regret, need to consider taking further industrial action in November. In that instance unity among staff will be essential if we are to defend our pensions.

The National Association of Head Teachers and UCAC have also already decided to ballot their members for industrial action.

The Government has lost the confidence of the teaching profession over its handling of our pensions. It now has a final chance to listen to reason.

For our part, we will do everything in our power to achieve a negotiated solution without further disruption in our schools, colleges and universities.

We wish all our members a restful summer holiday. Next term, we will return renewed and refreshed and determined once again to protect our pension scheme.

Mary Bousted
Christine Blower
Sally Hunt

Friday 15 July 2011

LIb Dem MP fails to convince teachers on pensions robbery

At least Simon Hughes MP was prepared to come and talk to teachers at a meeting at City of London Academy this evening. Unlike Ed Milliband, he was also prepared to make clear that he had 'no problem with people taking strike action'. However, his defence of Lord Hutton's supposedly 'independent' recommendations cut little ice with the many young teachers who had stayed at school on a Friday evening to discuss with their local MP.

The Southwark MP outlined the contentious areas in the pensions debate fairly clearly. But his admisison that Hutton and the National Audit Office figures had both showed that the cost of pensions were falling was in direct contradiction to his suggestions that there was a problem with the 'sustainability' of public sector pensions.

Teachers present soon picked up on the contradiction. If we're paying in more for longer yet the costs are already set to fall, then where is the money going? Are the employers' contributions set to be cut? Although Simon Hughes thought that unlikely, Kevin Courtney, the NUT DGS who was also present, pointed out that this was exactly what was being suggested in negotiations. In other words, teachers pay more so that the employers can pay less and/or the surplus goes to the Government.

As one teacher out it, "We're not stupid, this is a cheap grab". Others pointed to the stress of the job and questioned how much longer they would be living after working in an inner-city school until 68 or more! Others questioned why capable graduates should go into teaching when teachers' pensions were being attacked and what this meant for education.

One teacher rightly pointed out that it would be harder to get a job, and certainly to gain promotion, if older teachers were having to remain in post beyond 65. Another raised that young teachers would leave the pensions scheme if the costs rose so greatly - particularly when there was no guarantee that pension payouts wouldn't be cut again, robbing them of what they thought they would be earning in retirement.

Simon Hughes agreed that teachers should know with certainty what their pensions were worth - and that the deal struck post-Hutton should therefore be for the long-term. But, I pointed out, why then were they ripping up a deal that was agreed just a few years ago with the last Government?

The MP suggested that there was little chance of the Government retreating on the increase in the retirement age ( think again Simon!). However, he tried to show sympathy over the cost of increased contributions, especially for teachers contending with the high costs of living in London. However, this was coupled with a dangerous suggestion of 'divide-and-rule' with Hughes suggesting that teachers should be a special case and fix a separate deal to the other sectors. No doubt that's exactly what is also being said to other sectors - to try and break-up united opposition.

However, the reference to higher salaries in Inner London gave me the chance to point out that the significant post-threshold uplift had been won a decade or so ago - by strike action. As I pointed out to the MP, teachers had welcomed the chance to discuss their concerns with him. However, if Ministers didn't listen, then teachers would again need to rely on further strike action to make sure our arguments were listened to.

Thursday 14 July 2011

NUT Executive agrees next steps in campaign to defend our pensions

The NUT Executive met on July 14th to review our solid strike action on June 30th - and to lay firm plans for continuing the campaign next term so as to force this discredited Government to retreat.

The June 30 strike exceeded expectations in the number of schools closed by action, the turnout on the day and in the way we convincingly got our arguments across to the press and public.

Over 80% schools were closed partially or totally by strike action. Reports suggest that nearly 80,000 people took part in the over 70 rallies that were held right across England and Wales on 30th June. In every area, NUT members were in a majority, with young teachers to the fore.

The campaign also built the union. Many new school reps have been recruited. Head office was deluged by calls and applications from teachers wanting to join the NUT to take part in the action. On top of the normal membership growth we might expect at this time of year, early indications suggest that at least an extra 6,000 teachers joined the NUT as a direct result of the campaign.

Feedback suggests that the areas with the best turnouts were those that had organised most school meetings and the biggest local reps’ briefings to build for June 30. Every association needs to plan ahead for meetings next term, targeting those schools where we need to get our message across. After the success of June 30, and after a well-earned break, we have to be ready to get straight back into further campaigning and to prepare for further national strike action.

A plan of action for Autumn Term
The campaign steps agreed at the Executive were:

* Continuing to work closely with the ATL, UCU and PCS over negotiations, campaigning and action.

* In addition, continue to seek support for a joint campaign from other teaching unions including the NAHT, ASCL and NASUWT and Scottish and Irish unions - as well as other non-teaching unions.

* Agreeing a further date for co-ordinated national strike action - on a day close to half-term - to go ahead unless negotiations show real progress.

* Before then, building the highest possible public profile and backing for the campaign including by:

A major effort around the ‘Fair Pensions for All Petition" including Saturday stalls advertised to members, circulation to local trade unions etc.

Activities around the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester in October including the TUC-backed regional march, a retired teachers lobby and a major public meeting. Activities could be organised around the Lib Dem Conference in Birmingham as well.

A Mass Lobby of Parliament, probably just before the half-term break, to give final notice to Ministers that, if they don’t retreat, we will be taking further national strike action. This won’t just be a token lobby of a few per constituency. We plan to get at least one teacher from every school, backed by the strike ballot if necessary. We want each school to decide who they will send as their representative to join a queue of thousands of teachers outside Parliament.

Lies, Statistics - and plain robbery

Kevin Courtney, NUT Deputy General Secretary, reported to the Executive from the pensions ‘talks’ with Government. As Kevin pointed out, after failing to answer union arguments about the ‘affordability’ of our pensions, we can expect press and politicians to continue to try to bend the truth to justify their attacks.

Kevin pointed to the Telegraph’s false claims that supporting public sector pensions cost every household £42,000! But this would only be true if every single one of us died and claimed our pension tomorrow!

The real costs - and confirmation that they are already set to fall - not rise - could be proven if the Government carried out the long-overdue valuation of the scheme - but they still refuse to do so.

Instead, they continue to insist that £2.8 billion has to be cut from pension costs - an unjustified extra tax levied on us to bail out the Government - not to help fund pensions. They also remain insistent that we have to pay more, to get less and to retire older. Don’t be fooled by Danny Alexander’s claims that we will still be able to retire on ‘broadly comparable’ pensions. That’s only if we work on until 68 and pay in those increased contributions right up to our retirement. We’ll be paying so much more in for our pensions that the NUT even estimates that they could afford to cut the 14% employer’s contributions - paving the way for the profiteers to take over privatised public services without having to pay so much for our pensions.

We expect Ministers to ‘spin’ the real facts - but we hope other unions won’t be distorting the truth to justify their own failure to ballot for the June 30 action. Our solid action has forced the Government to think - but not yet to make any significant concessions. ‘Consultations’ are starting over the summer - but ‘talks’ alone will achieve nothing but a damaging deal - unless they see we are ready to escalate action.

Key discussions at the July NUT National Executive

As well as the key discussions around the pensions campaign, other significant issues included:

Capability and Performance Management

Too many staff are already being put under intolerable pressure through unjustified ‘capability’ procedures and harsh classroom observations. However, things could get a whole lot worse under the new regulations that the Government wants to introduce from September 2012.

They plan to repeal the existing Performance Management Regulations, including getting rid of the ‘three hour yearly limit’ on classroom observations. New procedures will also allow unscrupulous Heads to threaten staff with rapid dismissal if they are deemed to be failing to meet new ‘professional standards’. At the same time, they want to make the existing ‘escape route’ of an agreed exit under a ‘compromise agreement’ much harder to achieve. Schools will also be encouraged to include ‘probationary periods’ for new appointees - leaving teachers worrying about their job security.

These new regulations could easily become a ‘bullies’ charter’ leaving teachers cowed into accepting any dictat for fear of losing their post - or failing to be awarded pay progression. Alongside our pensions battle, this will be another key campaign.

We discussed drawing up model procedures with the support of other unions and whether we might then ballot for action in schools or Local Authorities that imposed unacceptable procedures. National action might also be required. What’s certain is that we cannot leave teachers to be picked off one-by-one. These threats will have to be fought collectively.


The focus for next term’s workload campaign will be on classroom observations. Updated guidance and posters will be circulated to school reps.

I also asked Officers to ask for feedback about how many schools have been ‘re-timetabling’ during the Summer Term - moving children up a year-group before the summer and starting the new timetable early. This means no let-up for staff or students and no time to reflect or prepare properly for the year ahead. Let me know if this is happening in your school - and what it has meant for your workload.

Pay Freeze

Remember, while inflation continues to rise, the value of each point on the pay scale will be frozen in September. Most teachers at least received a small 2.3% rise last year but teachers in Sixth Form Colleges were only awarded a 0.75% increase. Now a complete freeze is also threatened for September. That’s why the Union is preparing for a strike ballot over pay for members in Sixth Form Colleges.

A Growing Union - A Growing Partnership
The pensions campaign has built the NUT. Don’t forget to ask newly-qualified teachers and new staff to join us too. We also plan to launch a joint union partnership with the EiS teaching union in Scotland and the INTO and UTU unions in Ireland as part of a growing partnership across Britain and Ireland.

Oppose the EDL Racists in Tower Hamlets
While we are seeking to unite communities against cuts and job losses, the ‘English Defence League’ encourages division. NUT members should look out for further details about a protest being called to oppose the EDL who are provocatively threatening to march in Tower Hamlets on September 3rd.

Monday 11 July 2011

Cameron needs our pensions slashed to carry through his privatisation plans

Cameron: "It's about bringing in a Big Society approach to public services"

CBI: "Public sector pensions remain the biggest barrier to the private and third sectors providing public services"

Cameron's speech today extolling the virtues of wholesale privatisation (ironically on the same day when Southern Cross announced it was having to pull out of all its 750 care homes) spelt out how the Government wants to hand-over all our public services to private profiteers. But, to do that, he needs to tear-up public sector pensions too.

The CBI has been encouraging politicians to do this for years. In 2009, their press release argued that "Business are being put off bidding for public service contracts by the need to mirror costly public sector pensions when staff are transferred from the public sector to the private"  http://publicservices.cbi.org.uk/media/press_release/00226/

John Cridland from the CBI has been urging the Government to press ahead with its attacks on public sector pensions for exactly the same reasons. In his article on March 9th
Cridland argued that:
"There is so much to be learnt from the changes made in the private sector. Even where defined-benefit pensions remain open, private employers have taken steps to manage the growing burden. From increasing employee contributions and redesigning benefits, to raising retirement ages and moving from a final salary to a career-average basis – all have worked as pension safeguards"

"Pension reforms will also help the prime minister's "big society" programme to really get off the ground. Public sector pensions remain the biggest barrier to the private and third sectors providing public services. Pension costs and liabilities are far higher for providers outside the public sector. When third sector and private sector organisations currently bid for work they have to be able to cover the full cost of public sector pension liabilities, and many simply do not have the money to do so".

In other words, the CBI are saying that they can't make a decent profit out of public services unless they stop paying decent pensions. They want to rip-off public sector workers in the same way that they have already ripped-off many private-sector employees.

Together we have to stop the pensions robbery - and help stop privatisation too.

Saturday 9 July 2011

Petition to the TUC - Don't Let the Tories Divide Us - Call United Action On Pensions


"Three quarters of a million went on strike on June 30th in a massive show of strength against a concerted attempt by the Tory and Liberal Democrat partners of this millionaire government to make workers pay for the bankers’ greed. Powerful demonstrations up and down the country brought thousands, including many young workers onto the streets in big cities and small towns, many for the first time, determined to defend pensions, and to stop the immediate huge pay cuts that pension changes would mean.

We believe that 30th June was the opening salvo. To win we need to turn this three-quarters of a million into 4-5 million in the next round of industrial action in the autumn, involving all public sector unions, and thereby scuppering the machinations of the government to drive a wedge into the trade union movement between the NUT, UCU, ATL and PCS and the other three big unions Unison, Unite and GMB. Defence of pensions has proved a unifying factor so far, and one of our best opportunities to all come together and collectively force Cameron and Clegg into a massive U-turn.

We, the undersigned call on the TUC Conference on September 11th and the General Council to agree to call a one-day strike of all public sector unions as the next step in this struggle. We pledge to do all in our power to help make such an action a real success".

This petition will be presented to the TUC at Congress House on 11 September on the eve of their conference. Join us on the march and lobby: Assemble at 1:30pm for an opening rally at Friends Meeting House, Euston Road, London NW1.

Sign up and download a hardcopy of the petition here:  http://www.shopstewards.net/sign. 

Please forward to your friends, anti-cuts campaigners and trade union colleagues.

Thursday 7 July 2011

Clapton Girls Strike against Academy Status

NUT members at Clapton Girls Technology College will be taking strike action on Tuesday 12th July against plans for the school to become an Academy.

Hackney NUT have previously written to the Chair of Governors to express "our extreme anger and concern over what we understand was a decision taken at the recent governing body meeting to seek ‘converter’ academy status, following what we can only view as a ‘consultation’ process so flawed as to be meaningless ... We are very concerned about this decision. Academy schools have no accountability to the local community, and are a threat to comprehensive education. In addition, we are concerned about the pay and conditions in the school, should it become an Academy"

Please send messages of support to

Sunday 3 July 2011

London Trade Union Meeting - Where next after June 30?

The National Shop Stewards Network are helping to organise a meeting to bring together different unions across London to plan for the next steps in building co-ordinated strike action after June 30 - including a Lobby of the TUC in London on Sunsay September 11th.

Monday 18th July 6pm Indian YMCA, 41 Fitzroy Square, W1T 6AQ
Chris Baugh: PCS Assistant General Secretary
Steve Hedley: London RMT Regional Organiser
Mark Palfrey: CWU London divisional rep
Ben Sprung: FBU London organiser
Martin Powell-Davies NUT executive

June 30 - A real show of strength

For reports on June 30 from right across England and Wles, visit:
Classroom Teacher blog: http://classroomteachers.blogspot.com/
and the Socialist Party website: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/12329/30-06-2011/reports-massive-30-june-public-sector-pensions-strike
Brighton on June 30
Right across England and Wales, teachers thronged to local rallies and demonstrations, ATL and NUT members marching with striking  public-sector colleagues from PCS and UCU as well.

The turnout exceeded expectations. London planned for ten thousand - at least twice as many hit the streets! 5,000 marched in Bristol, Manchester and Birmingham, 4,000 in Brighton, thousands more in Liverpool and Leeds. Even rural Llandrindod Wells held its own march and rally!

Young teachers were to the fore - spurred into action by the pension robbery - but also by workload. They’ll be returning to school more  confident to stand firm on that too.

The strike itself also reached further and deeper than our last national action in 2008. The NUT estimate that 85% of schools were closed or partially closed to pupils. Many academies and even some independent schools were hit by our solid action.

Yet support on the school gates and even in opinion polls showed that many parents understood  why we had to strike. The public have seen trade unions standing up to Government cuts at last.

Ministers need to be warned - if they don’t back down, they’ll be even more public sector workers on strike together in the Autumn!

Friday 1 July 2011

Millwall Community Scheme Needs to Rethink

As well as reporting from the picket-line at Sydenham School about the strength of yesterday's strike in South London, today's South London Press has also picked up on the story in my blog post on Wednesday (below http://electmartin1.blogspot.com/2011/06/see-you-on-london-demonstration.html). This reported on the use of coaches from the Millwall Community Scheme (MCS) to provide activities in a school that would otherwise have been closed to pupils by strike action by NUT members.

Pete Garston, from Milwall FC has been in contact to ask me to point out that the Millwall Football Club board have no say in the way the Community scheme is run and I am happy to do so. However, as I replied to Pete, public perception will obviously link Millwall FC to MCS and the issue could inevitably damage the good standing of the club in the London Borough of Lewisham.

I also fully understand that MCS had not recognised the sensitivity of working in a school that was closed by strike action but hope that, in future, it will decline such a request from a school where staff are on strike.

Happy to be part of history

I received this message this morning from a retired teacher who had asked me for directions to the London Demonstration. What an example it gives of the widespread support for our action and the growing understanding of the need for all school staff to stand together in our trade unions - even in deepest Norfolk!

Dear Martin

We went and had a brilliant day out with 3000 police to guard us. And did we meet some lovely lovely people from all walks of life from all over London Town.
My wife shut her school in Ipswich despite threats from the Chief of Education: all positive from parents as the chair of governors sent out an informative kind letter; do we want 68 year old teachers? Teachers pension fund is sustainable as is! Many teachers will leave teaching; brill people will not join the profession.
The last two teachers in school joined ATL on Wed and the youngest teacher joined the strike (I will give her half a day's pay she lost as an encouragement for joining us even though she is ATL!). I persuaded 15 MSA and TA to join Unison: the school is now 100% Unionised.
I am a retired teacher and we did have a great adventure together after getting up at 4 am - home by 8pm, exhausted but happy to be part of history.

Granville, Wortwell Norfolk