Monday 27 February 2012

How do we tackle workload and Ofsted?

Lewisham NUT's meeting tonight followed a discussion on building the turnout in the pensions survey with a discussion on amendments to motions for NUT Conference. Teachers were particularly enthusiastic about tackling excessive workload and breaking the grip of ofsted.

We agreed the following two amendments in these areas:

MOTION 36 OFSTED

Insert a new point 5 at the end of the motion:
5. Consider whether non co-operation with inspection arrangements could be pursued as a workable action strategy to defend members and to support our campaign, particularly in the light of the decision by INTO to include non-co-operation with the Education and Training Inspectorate in schools in the North of Ireland.

MOTION 5 TEACHER WORKLOAD

Insert new paragraphs 3 and 4:
Conference is angered by the comments made by Michael Gove that teachers should welcome even longer working hours. Conference is clear that teachers already face excessive workload and that this is not only damaging to both staff health and well-being but also reduces the quality of education that teachers and schools can provide. Instead of extending hours, Government should be investing in education through recruiting more qualified teachers, allowing schools to increase PPA time and reduce class sizes, so as to both cut teacher workload and improve education.

Conference notes that these threats to increase working hours are just one part of a barrage of threatened Government attacks on the pay and conditions of teachers. When considering an action strategy against these threats, Conference instructs the Executive to consider the benefits of combining a number of separate issues in a single action ballot, rather than issuing separate ballots for action over each separate issue.

Vote YES YES - you can't afford not to!

If any colleague tells you that they can't afford to take further strike action, just remind them how much their pay is going to be cut if we don't continue to fight this pensions robbery:

For further information:
Download the full powerpoint that this information was taken from on the Lewisham NUT website

Saturday 25 February 2012

GET THOSE YES YES VOTES BACK!

The surveys have arrived - so don't delay, vote YES, YES today!



Internet, text or post - whatever you choose, vote YES,YES straight away !

Action Works - No to Cuts, No to Workfare

NOW LET'S WIN ON PENSIONS - VOTE YES YES!

YFFJ protest against tax doging Top Shop's use of Workfare today
If any teacher is doubting whether we have the strength to defeat this Government's pensions robbery, then just look at the victories that have been achieved this week with much smaller forces than the coalition we have preparing action on March 28!

Teachers will have been amongst the many angry at the blatant use of Workfare by big business to force our school leavers into unpaid labour instead of properly paid work and genuine training. Yet the protests over the last few weeks have forced company after company to withdraw, leaving the Government scheme in tatters.

For more information, look at the Youth Fight for Jobs website (link on left of blog or
http://www.youthfightforjobs.com/). They are one of the campaign groups that have helped publicise the issue - successfully answering a Tory MP on BBC Newsnight last night. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01ckx2z/Newsnight_24_02_2012/)

There has also been a significant trade union victory scored by construction workers who, after six months of protests, unofficial walkouts and now a threatened strike, have defeated the attempts by the 'Dirty 7' electrical contractors to impose the BESNA contract which would have cut electricians' and other skilled construction workers’ wages by up to 35%.
For more information, see the National Shop Stewards Network website (link on left of blog or http://www.shopstewards.net/news.253.htm).

Just think what we can do with a strike on March 28 of members of NUT,UCU, PCS, EIS, SSTA, NIPSA - and more. Even the BMA are threatening action now!

So let's look out for those pensions surveys and give a loud and confident YES to continuing the campaign and YES to further strike action on March 28 and beyond!

Thursday 23 February 2012

Pensions - Update from today's National NUT Executive

As the NUT Executive was meeting today, surveys were about to be sent out to NUT members across England and Wales to ask for their support for further action – starting with a national strike on March 28.




Christine Blower confirmed that this was part of a common strategy being followed by a range of unions. The lecturers’ union UCU and the Welsh and Scottish teaching unions, UCAC, EiS and SSTA are also proceeding with a similar survey, as are the PCS civil servants union. NIPSA in Northern Ireland are ready to join with us on March 28. Healthworkers in UNITE may also take part and the prison officers union, the POA, will also want to show their support. Firefighters in FBU may not be ready to participate on March 28 but may well be ready to join in continuing action after Easter. Very few unions had actually signed-up to accept the scheme – ATL and VOICE are in a real minority.

The immediate priority is to get those ‘YES,YES’ votes out from as many NUT members as possible. Mailings, emails and meetings are being organised nationally and locally. Other unions are looking for the NUT to give a lead – and we will be declaring the results of our survey first on March 14.

With a supportive result, we will be set for a solid day of national action on March 28 – hopefully alongside the coalition of unions also pursuing further action. Beyond that, the Executive is already debating further action strategies, including the possibilities of further national or targeted strike action and we will return to that discussion when we next meet on March 14.

It’s clear that, without that action, the Government has no intention of withdrawing its pensions robbery. Worse, they have even more attacks in store from us.


Christine Blower reported that the Government had shifted slightly from its February 20 deadline to cease negotiations but, as they were refusing to provide any more funding, any last changes will only be about shifting around available funds. For example, if they moved to offset the discriminatory effect of the increased contributions on part-time staff, full-time staff would then just be expected to pay even more.

Let’s get those surveys back and give a clear message to the Government, teaching colleagues and fellow trade unionists – YES, we’re not accepting pensions robbery and YES, we’re ready to act on March 28 and beyond!

London Sixth Form Colleges Strike Against Cuts


On the picket line at City and Islington Sixth Form College
NUT members in sixth form colleges across London are taking strike action this afternoon as the start of a campaign of action to oppose Government's cuts in college funding and their effect on teachers' pay and working conditions.

This action follows a successful national ballot of NUT members in sixth form colleges. We hope we could soon be joined by other unions in a further national day of action since ATL members are now also being balloted for strike action and NASUWT members are also being consulted on whether they wish to take action.

NUT members have campaigned effectively over the past year, drawing attention to the scale of the Government's post 16 cuts - which have hit colleges even harder than schools - and defending the EMA.

The Government, however, continues its funding cuts and these will be even greater next year. In turn, college employers have increased class sizes and teaching hours, begun to cut jobs and refused any pay increase for 2011-12.

This action is essential to defend teachers, students and sixth form colleges. Sixth Form College staff are to be congratulated for highlighting the cuts that are hitting all schools, but particularly the post-16 sector.

Pay Cuts - the next big threat from Gove and Cameron

This morning’s NUT Salaries Committee gave National Executive members our first chance to respond to the serious threats posed by Gove’s letter asking the School Teachers’ Review Body to consider major attacks on teachers’ pay. (See  first post quoting from letter below on http://electmartin1.blogspot.com/2012/02/gove-tuesday-more-performance-pay-and.html).

The first threat is ‘local pay’ – linking pay levels to local private sector pay rates. This could mean that not just pay freezes - but actual pay cuts - won’t be something that just happens in countries like Greece. They could soon be coming to parts of England and Wales too.

Gove seems to want to ignore the reality that most national employers - as in teaching - still have national pay arrangements with additional payments in high-cost areas like London and the South-East. But, of course, both public and private-sector employers will be happy to seize on local pay as a means to cut costs. In this case, it’s another blatant excuse for the Government to make further spending cuts.

Even with a pay freeze in place, at least annual pay progression up the main scale and, although getting harder to achieve, progression on the upper pay scale, has allowed some teachers to increase their annual incomes. But Gove has this firmly in his sights too.

Gove wants there to be even greater links between pay and performance – including on the main scale. When this is put in the context of Gove’s wider ‘trash teachers’ agenda, it’s clear that this is a serious threat to block progress up the pay scales by making progress dependent on meeting harsh imposed criteria.

Teachers are already finding that progress on the Upper Pay Scale is being blocked by schools imposing unfair pupil progress targets and/or using harsh classroom observation reports. With new appraisal arrangements being left for schools to adopt individually, these decisions could become even harsher and even more subjective. Again, it threatens a serious attack on teachers’ incomes.

The Committee agreed that this was such a serious attack that the Executive should recommend a Priority Motion to the NUT Annual Conference this Easter to make our opposition clear.

On top of the attack on pensions (which includes pay cuts of course), teachers are facing a barrage of further attacks on workload, capability/appraisal arrangements and now salaries. As I suggested today, all these attacks are interlinked. We can’t respond to them by a set of separate action ballots. Instead, I proposed the Executive considers an enabling ballot that, similarly to the PCS, allows us to ballot for combined action against all of these combined attacks.

Wednesday 22 February 2012

For Profit Schools - NUT Press Release

Commenting on the Social Enterprise Schools report by Policy Exchange looking into the potential of‘for profit’ schools, Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union said

“The arguments against schools being run for profit are not ideological; they are based on the evidence that they do not work.


“Despite the fact that in Sweden for profit schools have lowered educational standards across the board and resulted in increased social segregation, they are still held up as a model by those hell bent on privatising our education system. Charter schools in the US have been shown to push out students less likely to achieve and the most comprehensive study of Charter schools categorically showed that 87% of students performed no better or ‘significantly worse’ than their state school counterparts.


“One of the reasons given in the report for private companies running schools is to end national pay bargaining. This would be the thin end of the wedge. Let there be no mistake: private companies running our schools would mean cutting corners in all areas for the sake of a profit motive.


“It is certainly the case that there is a lack of school places. However schools setting up randomly around the country without proper planning overseen by the local authority will simply exacerbate the problem, not solve it. Many of the first Free Schools to gain approval are secondary schools competing for places in areas where there is already a surplus of secondary places, not primaries seeking to fill a need. Private companies go where they see a profit, not where they recognise a need.


“It is extraordinary that a government would want to wash its hands of any responsibility for the education of its citizens in order to allow companies to make money out of our children. We really must stop this marketisation of our children and concentrate instead on providing a well rounded education which is accountable to the state, not to the shareholders of private companies”.

Tuesday 21 February 2012

Gove Tuesday - more performance pay and local pay ?

Michael Gove today issued a letter to the School Teachers' Review Body signalling yet further attacks on teachers' pay.

Gove is seeking yet 'greater freedoms and flexibilities' including:

 He asks the Review Body to have particular regard to: 



.. yet another reason why we can't afford to allow them to cut our pay through pensions robbery - and another example of the further attacks this Government has lined up if we don't stand firm !

RMT President heads list in trade union election challenge


Education is under attack from this Government: budgets are cut, schools facing forced privatisation, workload at intolerable levels - yet young teachers are told they should work until they’re 68!

But, shamefully, New Labour's leadership won't oppose these attacks: Ed Balls won’t reverse cuts, Stephen Twigg supports Free Schools , Ed Milliband opposes trade unionists striking to defend their pensions.


Teachers know they can’t just fight cuts and privatisation through trade union action alone. We also need political representatives that will speak out in support of union policies.


The London Assembly elections on May 3rd provides a great opportunity to elect candidates who will stand out against the pro-cuts consensus from all the main parties.
An excellent list of trade unionist and socialist campaigners has now been agreed to stand in the London-wide list section. It has a real chance to succeed in electing at least one assembly member. This would be a real breakthrough for everyone who wants to defend education and public services from cuts and privatisation.

The list will be headed by Alex Gordon, National President of the RMT Union. I am also proud to be part of the list of candidates and pledge my full support to the campaign.

As Alex Gordon has said in the latest TUSC Press Release: (http://www.tusc.org.uk/press160212.php)


“We believe ordinary Londoners should have the choice of an alternative to the political consensus in favour of public spending cuts, privatisation and pay freezes advocated by all the three main parties. Recent statements by Labour Party leaders that in government they would not reverse Tory/Lib Dem spending cuts confirms that they do not offer working-class people an alternative and cannot be a viable opposition to the attacks on our communities and our public services.”

 

The full list will be:
Alex Gordon, president of RMT will head the list.
Nick Wrack, TUSC national committee
April Ashley, Unison executive, representing black women members
Sian Griffiths, FBU women's committee
Steve Hedley, RMT London organiser
Ian Leahair, FBU national committee member
Gary McFarlane, anti-racist activist
Martin Powell-Davies, executive member for Inner London of the NUT
Merlin Reader, CWU London committee
Joe Simpson, assistant general secretary of the POA
Jenny Sutton, UCU (FE) London committee
Nancy Taaffe, library worker made redundant, former chair Waltham Forest Unison
Jackie Turner, doctor and health campaigner
Lee Vernon, Young Members convenor for London PCS
Lesley Woodburn, unemployed, Unite rep on SERTUC LGBTQ committee 


Candidates are in a personal capacity

Public rally to launch London TUSC GLA campaign: 
Speakers: Bob Crow, TUSC candidates, plus others to be announced. If you live in London come along and get involved… Wednesday 21 March, 7.15pm at 235 Shaftesbury Avenue London WC2H 8EP

Get involved
If you live in London and want to get involved in the campaign, e-mail tuscbulletin@yahoo.co.uk with your borough.

Scottish teachers preparing for March 28 too!

"Scotland’s Teachers Look To Pre-Easter Strike In Pensions Campaign"


Scotland’s largest teaching union, the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), is to consult its members on taking strike action on 28 March 2012 as part on an ongoing joint trade union campaign to protect public sector pensions.

The EIS will issue ballot papers to its members next week and will urge them to continue their strong opposition to Government plans which would make teachers work longer, pay more and get less for their pensions.

Announcing the launch of the consultative ballot, General Secretary Ronnie Smith said, "Although the Westminster Government has made minor changes to its proposals following the national day of action on 30 November, it is clear that the great majority of teachers do not accept the Government’s plans for their pensions.

That is why the EIS, together with a number of like-minded public sector unions, is contemplating further strike action, commencing on 28 March 2012.”

Mr Smith added, "While the Westminster Government has at least made its intentions clear, teachers in Scotland have heard nothing from the Scottish Government on its plans for their pensions. Their only action to date has been to copy the Westminster Government’s imposition of increases in contribution rates from 1 April 2012.

Unless the Scottish Government urgently engages in meaningful discussion with unions, the risk is that we will simply have to swallow whatever is dished up by the Westminster by way of pensions reform. Scottish teachers deserve, and expect, better.”

It is expected that the EIS Executive Committee will meet on 15 March to receive the result of the consultative ballot and decide on their next steps in the joint trade union campaign.


From EIS website: http://www.eis.org.uk/public.asp?id=1874&dbase=2

Monday 20 February 2012

Build a big turnout for a big YES vote on pensions

Crown Woods NUT group in Greenwich were first off the mark today with an after-school NUT meeting to discuss the pensions campaign straight after the half-term break.

The mood of the meeting was clear - that NUT members couldn't possibly accept the 'Heads of Agreement' as anywhere near good enough to settle our dispute. In that case, we also had to continue to take further action.

That's why the meeting agreed to build for the biggest turnout possible for a 'YES,YES' vote in the pensions survey. Here's a few ideas they came up with:

* Staff volunteered to get out the vote in specific departments - rather than leave it all to one rep
* Some suggested organising a 'voting party' with a few lunchtime refreshments - where staff can bring in their ballot papers, discuss the issues, and then vote right away
* They might arrange to meet in an IT room (be careful with the refreshments!) so that staff can see the shocking figures on the 'pensions loss calculator' (http://www.teachers.org.uk/node/12872 ) - then vote via internet or text straight away.

Make plans in your school and Association - let's show the strength of support for further action!

I also distributed copies of the latest 'Classroom Teacher' to help convince colelagues why we need to vote for further action. You can download a copy of the latest 'Pensions Survey edition' via: http://classroomteacher.org.uk/ctfebmar2012.pdf

Sunday 19 February 2012

YES - we have to take further action


YES - TO STOP THEM CUTTING OUR PAY
The Government hasn’t budged on their plan to make us ‘pay more’ for our pensions. They want to start these cuts to every teacher’s income from this April.
A UPS1 teacher is set to lose £27 a month - rising to £68 a month by 2014, a £820 yearly pay cut. For UPS1 in Inner London, that rises to £1360 a year.

YES - TO STOP AN UNFAIR TAX ON TEACHERS
There’s still no reason for teachers to pay in more - and then get less pension in return. This is still just an unfair extra tax to pay for Government debts.
While we pay in more, employers’ contributions could fall! They can afford to improve their pensions deal - but we’ll need to take further action to make them.
 

YES - BECAUSE WE CAN’T TEACH AT 68 !
Our action forced Ministers to allow teachers over 50 to still retire at 60 with their full pension. But most of us will have to work to 67 or 68 to get a full pension.
Workload is already at intolerable levels. Now they want to increase hours and observe us more often. Who can work under this stress until they’re 68?

YES - TO STOP THEM STEALING EVEN MORE
Most teachers will be forced to retire long before they reach their state pension age. They will have to give up £1,000s in actuarial losses by retiring ‘early’.
As the NUT pensions calculator shows, we’ll all lose thousands more by the unjust change from RPI to CPI. This unjust ‘deal’ means ‘pay more, get a LOT less’.

YES - TO DEFEND YOUNG TEACHERS
Young teachers have got the most to lose. Already struggling with debts, some will just drop-out of the scheme altogether, guaranteeing poverty in old age.
That’s a threat to everyone. If too many stop paying in, the scheme finances really could be in trouble. Then they’ll demand we pay even higher contributions !

YES - TO STOP THEM RUINING EDUCATION
If Gove gets his way, teaching will stop being a career. Instead, young staff, without a proper pension, will be worked into the ground, until they can take no more.
The pension attacks are part of the plans to privatise schools. The profiteers are demanding cheaper pensions so they can cash-in from public services.

YES - ACTION WILL GET PUBLIC SUPPORT
In both June and November, our strikes were well-supported by the public. We can win public support again for our continuing campaign of action.
Unions can explain how we are fighting to defend education. We can link up with private sector workers - like Unilever staff - also striking for their pensions.

YES - WE CAN WIN MORE CONCESSIONS
The threat of action last November forced some concessions out of this Government. With continued action, we can win further gains for teachers.
The changes don’t come fully into effect until 2015. We still have time to keep up the pressure on this unpopular Government until they concede far more.

Monday 13 February 2012

VOTE 'YES, YES' to STOP THE PENSIONS ROBBERY!


This thieving Government may have hoped that they had safely got away with their pensions robbery. But they had better think again!

The NUT, PCS and UCU National Executives have all unanimously agreed to build support for a continuing campaign of action, starting with another one-day strike on March 28th. We could well be joined by others including the Northern Ireland Public Sector Alliance (NIPSA) and Scottish teaching unions EIS and SSTA.


Some union leaders may have shamefully withdrawn from the battle but, with the FBU and sections of UNITE also considering action, a strong coalition is being forged. Together, we can, and must, make sure that it is the Con-Dems who have to retreat, not the unions.

The fog of confusion that spread when the ‘Heads of Agreement’ was issued in the New Year is starting to clear. The truth is emerging that this shabby ‘deal’ yielded no further concessions of any significance beyond what had already been won in November. It still means workers having to pay more, to retire older, and to get less pension when they do.

How can a teacher or fire-fighter work on into their sixties? With the Government threatening teachers with even greater workload, it will be hard enough to work until 60, let alone 68.

Many workers will be forced to retire long before they reach their state pension age, allowing the Government to clawback £1,000s more from our pensions.

With pay already frozen, who can afford to see their pension contributions increase by 50%? Staff already struggling with debts could just drop-out of the scheme, and retire in poverty.

This is still an unjustified extra tax to pay for the bankers’ debts and cheapen costs for private profiteers. While teachers would have to pay in more, employers’ contributions could be cut !

The NUT will be taking these arguments out to every school to mobilise support for March 28 and beyond. Like other unions, we’ll be calling on members to vote in an indicative survey to give a clear endorsement for this ongoing program of strike action.

NUT consultation papers will be sent out to arrive at homes from February 24th - to be returned by March 14th. The two questions for NUT members will be:

1) Do you endorse the decision of the National Executive to continue the pensions campaign and to refuse to sign up to the Government’s proposals?
2) Would you support further strike action beginning with a national one day strike on 28th March?

By voting for action, we’ll be sending a clear message to the Government that the fight for pensions is far from over. At the same time, we’ll also be making clear that we are ready to fight on all those other attacks on pay, conditions and public services that this millionaires’ Government wants to throw at us.

Sunday 12 February 2012

Misery, poverty and unemployment is all that the 'market' can offer




As the hated politicians of Greece gather in their Parliament today to vote through yet more cuts to meet the demands of the EU and the robber-bankers, it is ever clearer that trade union struggle and socialist change is a necessity to stop the complete impoverishment of future generations.


In the countries at the 'periphery' of the EU – Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy and Ireland – the prospect of a future of mass unemployment, especially for young people, prolonged recession and growing impoverishment, is all that the capitalist politicians can offer.

But the policies of austerity, born out of the determination to make workers pay for the crisis, are serving only to further depress the economy.

Sister organisations of the Socialist Party in the Committee for a Workers' International (CWI) in Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Italy and Spain have produced a joint declaration - "International struggle can end dictatorship of the markets" - calling for European-wide action to stop the attacks on workers' living standards: http://www.socialistworld.net/doc/5573

In Greece, the Troika (IMF, ECB and EU) are trying to impose a new round of severe cuts, with the Parliament voting on a package that includes huge cuts in the minimum wage, plus the immediate axing of of 15,000 public sector jobs as part of the destruction of 150,000 jobs in total by 2015. Yet the Troika are saying that this still isn't 
enough!

The minimum wage will be cut by 22% to just 480 euros net per month. For under 25 year olds, it's a 32% cut, which means living on 430 euros a month. But the worst affected are the young so-called ‘apprentices’. They will see their monthly wage cut to a mere 350 euros.


The Greek section of the CWI has issued an "u
rgent call to all the Greek Left", saying that:
The vast majority of the Left all agree that this government must go and that the Troika must be forced out. We also agree that the only way to do this is through a mass movement. Calls such as "rebellion everywhere” are commonplace. But we believe that such general demands now have to be urgently translated into concrete proposals for action.
It would be a grave mistake if the Left puts all its hopes in a mass mobilisation tomorrow, hoping that this could cause the fall of the government. We propose the following measures:
•To start a permanent occupation of Sindagma Square (or another alternative).
• Unite behind the slogan: "Down with the government, kick out the Troika."
• Above all we must broaden the movement: increasing the duration of our strikes, our most important weapon. We must also organise the youth, with occupations across schools and colleges.
• Call an assembly of all the forces of the Left to organise a united struggle.
http://www.xekinima.org/arthra/view/article/epeigon-kalesma-se-oli-tin-aristera


UPDATE: For a report from the demonstrations - with up to half a million marching in Athens alone - go to:  http://www.socialistworld.net/doc/5582