Momentum building for united action to defend public sector pensions
October's NUT Executive was the first meeting since the TUC Congress - and that marvellous announcement of the plan for co-ordinated strike action of perhaps three million public sector trade unionists on November 30 (N30). Now every NUT member needs to play their part in making sure that N30 is the massive show of strength needed to persuade the Government to think again about their attacks on our pensions.
When I spoke alongside other trade unions at the Rally organised by the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) before Congress to call for a 24-hour public sector general strike, there were already signs that we could be optimistic. However, it was only when a succession of unions reported to Congress that they would all be balloting for action that we knew that staff in schools, colleges, local authority and civil service workplaces should indeed all be on strike together on N30.
WHO NEEDS TO BALLOT BEFORE N30 ?
Teachers in the four unions that started the ball rolling on June 30 - ATL, NUT, PCS and UCU - do NOT need to reballot to strike on N30 as our ballots for 'discontinuous' action are still in place. Newly qualified teachers and other new NUT joiners (and our growing membership figures show that there’s lots of them!) are also covered - even if they didn’t vote in the first ballot. The only NUT members that will need to be balloted are advisers and other central staff who are members of the Local Government Pension Scheme rather than the Teachers’ Pension Scheme. They should be receiving ballot papers from October 20th.
But every NUT member needs to urge staff in other school unions to look out for their ballot papers and vote to take strike action with us:
NAHT - papers now out - ballot closes on 9 Nov.
NASUWT will ballot between 4th and 17th Nov.
UNISON will ballot between 11th Oct & 3rd Nov.
GMB will ballot between 31st Oct & 16th Nov.
Organise a joint union meeting in your school - invite teachers and support staff
Urge everyone to vote for joint strike action
Get everyone to sign the joint union petition and agree a delegation for the Oct. 26 Lobby
The joint union Lobby on Wednesday October 26 is backed by all of the main teaching unions - ASCL, ATL, NAHT, NASUWT, NUT, UCAC and UCU. It will be another important event to make sure our pensions campaign is in the headlines. Our message to the Government will be clear - if you don't keep your hands off our pensions, we'll be on strike!
The Lobby falls in half-term so that teachers and our families can get there. The National Pensioners Convention will also be attending to protest at the way that the change of indexation from RPI to the lower CPI is already robbing pensioners of their much-needed income. Colleagues will travel from across the country - just as they did to the excellent demonstration outside the Tory Party Conference in Manchester. However, just as that event was particularly built by the North-West TUC, it is the local turnout that will be key. That means we need to get there in half-term from London schools !
The route of the march is still to be finalised with the police but the provisional details are:
ASSEMBLE at midday, Victoria Gardens, Westminster, SW1;
MARCH to the Dept. of Education to hand in the mass petition.
Even if you can’t make it to the Lobby in half-term, make sure everyone in your school signs the mass petition. You can download a petition and register who is going to the Lobby from your school on: www.decentpensions.org.uk
What's happening in the negotiations ?
Christine Blower reported to the NUT Executive that unions were waiting for the Government to announce the 'cost-ceiling' which they want to impose on our pension schemes. If, as we suspect, they are still determined to fix a tight budgetary limit, then the Government will have left no room for serious negotiations. It would mean any cut in contribution increases would have to be paid for by cuts in pension pay-outs and/or even higher retirement ages. In that case, our only answer can be firm action - on N30 and beyond into 2012 too.
Of course the Executive understands that, with pay rises frozen and inflation rising, no teacher can easily afford to lose pay through strike action. But we all need to recognise that we can even less easily afford to lose £150 every single month from our salaries. Yet these figures showing the latest Government proposals show that this is exactly what we will suffer if we don’t strike together:
Increase from current 6.4% deduction by 2014:
Inner London M1: up to 8.7% = £52 extra a month
Inner London M6: up to 9.4% = £91 extra a month
Inner London U3: to 10.4% = £150 extra a month!
What follows after November 30?
The NUT Executive will meet again in November to discuss what plans are being made for further action with other unions. The NASUWT are talking about workload action - although their exact plans aren’t yet clear. However, we are certainly happy to discuss joint ‘non-strike’ sanctions. However, it is strike action that will be the key.
I will certainly be calling for the union to name further days for action after Xmas if the Government refuses to retreat. A rolling programme of regional strike action is being considered, as well as national strike days. As I said at the NSSN rally, my own preference is for a clear step-up in our action - by calling a national 48-hour shutdown across the public sector.