Promoted by David Beale, 36 Pleasant View, Withnell, Chorley PR6 8SE on behalf of Martin Powell-Davies of TUSC.

Tuesday 30 August 2011

As the summer ends - prepare for action

As teachers get ready for the new term, we also need to get ready for further action to defend pensions.

Much has happened over the summer - unfortunately, much of it all too predictable:

* Economic reports and jitters on the world's stock markets all indicate growing fears that any limited 'recovery' in the world economy is already petering out as we slide towards a 'double-dip' recession.

Far from being a justification for further cuts, these dismal prospects are the predictable outcome of austerity packages that cut jobs, cut tax income and undermine demand as workers have even less in their pocket to spend. It's another reason to stand up to the cuts in pay and pensions that are being inflicted on teachers and many other workers.

* The disturbances earlier this month in Inner London exposed the alienation of many young people in Inner London - and elsewhere.

Teachers will continue to work hard to encourage our school-students to make the most of their talents - rather than get caught up the dead-end of rioting. But we will also expect politicians to do more than offer hypocritical lectures on 'criminality'. They have a responsibility to provide the jobs and training that can offer young people a real future when they leave school.

* Oliver Letwin, in charge of the Government's privatisation plans, disgracefully suggested that teachers and other public sector workers needed to be motivated by "fear" of losing our jobs.

Schools have been blighted for too long by a bullying regime of league tables and inspections. Staff work best through support and encouragement - not fear. But we need to take this warning very seriously. Alongside privatisation and attacks on pay and pensions, the Government is planning to scrap the existing limit on classroom observations and make it easier for schools to bully teachers out of their posts. This will be another key battle in the year ahead.

* Danny Alexander, in charge of the pensions 'negotiations' with unions, released a statement at the end of term making clear that "the Government remains committed to securing the full Spending Review savings of £2.8bn (by) 2014-15".

If the Government is determined to impose a financial straitjacket in this way, there can be no genuine negotiations on offer. It means that Ministers are only prepared to discuss exactly where the cuts should fall! As July's joint ATL/NUT/UCU statement explained "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 then went on to propose how much more we will have to pay from April 2012 - as they phase-in increased pension contributions. They would rise from 6.4% of salary to 7.6% for teachers on the mainscale and to 8.0% for teachers earning over £40,000. This, of course, while annual pay rises are frozen.

As the NUT press release said in response, "There is no surprise in this announcement. It has been obvious from the start that the Government had no intention of listening to reason, and has been determined to implement changes to public sector pension schemes regardless of whether they are necessary or not".

But the press release also rightly concluded:
“We cannot allow this ruthless dismantling of our public sector pensions to go ahead ... We will be working alongside other teaching unions and the TUC to ensure that teachers and public sector workers are not penalised by a Government which appears to be determined to wreck havoc on a pension scheme that is sustainable, affordable and fair... NUT members have taken strike action before to defend their pensions and will do so again if the Government does not see sense".  

Mary Bousted, ATL General Secretary, has also been quoted in the press this week warning that the ATL are having to prepare for further action. 

As the joint ATL/NUT/UCU statement made clear at the end of last term:
"If the government will not budge from its current position those trade unions who have already taken action will, with regret, need to consider taking further industrial action in November".

The NUT Executive will be meeting shortly before the TUC Congress on Friday September 9th to discuss the latest developments and to prepare those plans for further co-ordinated action. 

However, I hope that further strike plans won't just involve the unions who took such solid action on June 30 but that we will be joined by other unions - in education and beyond - in a joint show of strength that will make absolutely clear to the Government that we aren't going to accept their plans to make us pay more in order to get less pension when we retire older.

The NSSN Rally and Lobby of the TUC on September 11th is an excllent opportunity to prepare for the term's battles - and to put pressure on the TUC to help co-ordinate the strongest and widest action possible in defence of public sector pensions - make sure you are there!

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