Monday 30 April 2012

Lewisham teacher attacked by racists

Lewisham NUT is outraged by the news that, while campaigning against government cuts on Saturday, our NUT Retired Members’ Secretary was attacked and hospitalised by racists claiming to have allegiance to ‘March for England’, a group closely linked to the English Defence League (EDL).
Lewisham NUT believes that it is no coincidence that this attack should take place just a few days before elections to the Greater London Assembly where candidates supported by racist and fascist parties are seeking to benefit from the public anger against the effects of the austerity measures.
Racism and fascism provide no answers to the problems facing young people, nor to any part of our community. Instead of bringing people together to defend their jobs, homes, pensions and public services, racists and fascists make it harder to defend our livelihoods by dividing communities instead.
Saturday’s outrage shows that, far from standing up for people’s rights, the racists instead attack trade unionists and socialists out campaigning to defend our local communities from cuts. As trade unionists, we pledge to defend our union members and our local community from racist attacks and to continue to campaign for the united trade union action which is needed to defeat cuts and austerity.
Lewisham NUT resolves to:
1) Join other trade unionists and campaigners demonstrating in opposition to the EDL when they march through Luton this Saturday.
2) Organise with other trade unionists and socialists in Lewisham to organise stewarding and support to ensure that campaign stalls will continue to be held in Lewisham High Street. The NUT will mobilise members to make sure we can proudly and safely bring our message to the public in opposition to racism and in support of a mass campaign to defend jobs, pensions and services from cuts and privatisation.

Sunday 29 April 2012

Pensions - Why I'm calling for national action in June

A special NUT National Executive meeting was held on Thursday April 26 at the request of a group of Executive members, including myself, who wanted to ensure that NUT Annual Conference decisions were followed up as quickly as possible. At the meeting, I proposed an amendment (seconded by Anne Lemon from Bristol) calling on the Executive to confirm that we will definitely call a further national strike in June, so that we can start to prepare and build for action as soon as possible.

Others, including the General Secretary, Deputy General Secretary and my fellow NEC member for Inner London, Alex Kenny, disagreed. The amendment was lost 28 to 13.

The majority argued that we should wait until the next Executive on May 10 before making any decision. That’s because they wanted to await the outcome of further discussions with the NASUWT about possible joint campaigning and action next term. I respect their views, but, as I explain below, I fear this has created another unnecessary and unhelpful delay in calling action.

Most worrying to me, several Executive members argued that, as the NASUWT are unlikely to join with the PCS and others planning further national pensions action in June, the NUT should also delay any further action until next term.

I have always supported discussing with the NASUWT to try and get joint action over workload, pay and capability - just as I argued at NUT Conference that we should find out how UTU and INTO had worked together in Northern Ireland to organise a serious work-to-rule that includes a boycott of inspections. But these talks are no reason to delay our own national action. If you feel the same, please send in motions from your school group or Local Association calling for the NUT to take action in June.

1) Listen to Conference Policy

The April Executive received a report from Officers setting out some of the actions that had been taken since NUT Conference - like supporting the call for another national demo. in the Autumn along the lines of the monster march of March 26 2011. But what about these Conference decisions on pensions too ?:

“while recognising the clear benefits of joint action by teacher unions, Conference resolves that we cannot make the willingness of the NASUWT to take part as a necessary requirement before proceeding to call further strike action as part of our on-going pensions campaign”

“urgently approach the other unions who have not accepted the Government’s final proposals to seek support for this plan of action as the basis of an agreed plan of co-ordinated action next term, and to urgently announce the confirmed calendar of action to our members and to the press”

“work with divisions and associations with the aim of organising a further one day strike before the end of June 2012”

2) Unity - but at what price?

Every teacher recognises the benefits of united action. When the NAS - and others like UNISON - took action with us in November 2011, more schools were closed, the strike had greater impact. But we had to take action in June first before the NASUWT agreed to join in!

I welcome talks with the NASUWT that might lead to a further ballot so we can hopefully take action together in the Autumn. But why should those talks be undermined by the NUT separately confirming that we are going ahead with strike action on pensions this term - as voted for by our Annual Conference?

Yes, NUT members want to act together with NASUWT colleagues on workload and pay, but surely not at the price of allowing our pensions campaign to falter ?

National action in June would not cut across any ballot - it would help to build confidence that the campaign was back on track and help to win any such ballot.

But unity isn’t only about the NASUWT. We stood aside from the PCS/UCU/UNITE action in May. We owe it to them, and to our own members, to join them in June.

3) We have to regain momentum

If we delay another national strike until October, most NUT members won’t have taken strike action for almost a year. Further prevarication presents perhaps the greatest danger to our campaign. It saps confidence and breeds uncertainty.

We don’t need to be uncertain. The pro-cuts policies of this Government are deeply unpopular. Their damaging effect on the economy is becoming clear. We HAVE won concessions already. With further action, we CAN win more !

The London strike showed that the depth of anger against the cuts is still there - but also showed, as did the recent survey of Division Secretaries, that most teachers prefer national action to regional strikes.

London answered the NUT’s call. Now we owe it to those members to show that a national strike will soon follow - as part of a calendar of ongoing action.

NAS support would be welcome but 63% of Secretaries surveyed agreed that their members would still support action without the NASUWT in June. With a firm campaign, those numbers can easily be boosted. What we need is that firm lead !

NATIONAL CONFERENCE - Organise for a confirmed calendar of action
Saturday 16 June 11.00 - 3.30, Quaker Meeting House, 22 School Lane Liverpool L1 3BT
I believe that the continuing delay in calling further pensions action means that the Local Associations Conference, launched at a fringe meeting at Annual Conference by a range of NUT Associations under the banner of ‘Local Associations for National Action', is now even more important. Please contact me to find out more and/or to add your Association to the sponsors.

Civil servants in the PCS and NIPSA, healthworkers in UNITE and lecturers in UCU will be on strike on May 10 in defence of pensions.

London teachers need to show our support and solidarity - just as these unions gave their support to us on M28:
* Send collections and messages of support to colleges, civil service offices and hospitals - visit their picket lines on the way to work on May 10 
* Join the NUT protest outside the DfE, 10 May, 5.30  5.30 - 6.30 pm, outside the Department of Education, Sanctuary Buildings, Great Smith St, SW1P 3BT

But surely the best way we can show solidarity is to make clear that we’re ready to join their next action ourselves! If you agree, send in your calls to the Executive to take united strike action in June !

TUSC breaks through the media silence

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition is standing a list of leading trade unionists and anti-cuts campaigners on the London-wide list (on the orange ballot paper) in Thursday's election for the Greater London Assembly. I am proud to be on that list as a member of the NUT Executive - although in a personal capacity.

We are offering a real alternative to the agenda of cuts and privatisation of all the main parties. Given the serious challenge we offer, it's no real surprise that the media have been trying to throw a blanket of silence over the campaign.

But TUSC organiser Paula Mitchell managed to seize her chance on the BBC's Question Time last week. Have a look on:

TUSC also has election broadcasts to watch and share. Have a look at the long version:

or, if you're in a  hurry, the 2 minute broadcast:

We need our own political voice, a trade unionist who will stand up in that Assembly and hold the Mayor - whoever is elected - and the Assembly members to account - and send them a clear message that trade unionists will fight their cuts!

So remind your family, friends, workmates and trade union colleagues to vote TUSC on May 3!

Saturday 28 April 2012

Learning how to win - like the Liverpool 47

Don’t Mention the 47

Screening (4.00 pm) & Discussion (5.15 - 6.15pm) - Sunday 29th April 2012

Roxy Bar & Screen, Borough High St, SE1 1LB

“Don’t Mention the 47”, made by Arti Dillon and Lisa Lonsdale, is an openly political documentary that re-opens a crucial chapter in Liverpool’s (& Britain's) working class history. Through a series of interviews the film gives voice to some of those who were closely involved, assembling an inspiring example of solidarity and resistance.

I am looking forward to this first screening of 'work-in-progress' of a film that records the achievement of the Liverpool 47 Councillors from 1983-1987. It can help to educate a new generation of trade unionists and anti-cuts campaigners about their struggle – and learn how they achieved their victory.

Significant victories are not easily won against a bosses’ Government. It takes determination, organisation and skilled leadership to defeat the wealthy with all the weapons that they have created to hold us back – their laws, their politicians and their press.

When they face a serious enemy, they use their press - and it really is their press as the revelations around Murdoch have again shown - to vilify leaders who, in Thatcher’s words about Liverpool “do not have enough respect for my office”. 

As Leon Trotsky put it – and he had good reason to know - “When it comes to a threat against their material interests, the educated classes set in motion all the prejudices and confusion which humanity is dragging in its wagon-train behind it”. 

In the case of Liverpool 47 of course, the vilification was led by Kinnock and other supposed Labour leaders. It helped set in train a counter-revolution that turned the Labour Party from an organisation that, with all its weaknesses, could be used to help build the struggles of working-people, into one that is just another party of capitalism.

Today’s Labour leaders, and the hundreds of career politicians and Labour councillors sitting in Town Halls across the country, certainly don’t want communities facing cuts, closures and privatisation of local services to be reminded that there was a Labour Council, yes a Labour Council, that was prepared to declare – like the Poplar councillors before them - that it was ‘better to break the law than break the poor’ – and, with the support of their communities and their workforce, refuse to carry out cuts.

Messrs Milliband and Balls will do nothing of the sort - they won’t even commit to reversing the ConDem cuts if elected. That’s why the NUT Annual Conference unanimously voted to condemn those Labour leaders and recommit to a policy of ‘No Cuts’. It’s also why those of us in the Socialist Party are fighting to build a new workers’ party and, with other socialists and, crucially, with the support of RMT, FBU and leading members of other trade unions, are fighting to win seats for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition on May 3rd. 

For those who don't know the history, the website helps to outline the events of that period - and lists the achievements of that victorious struggle - like the 5000 new homes that were built, the improvements in wages and conditions, the apprenticeships that were created.

NUT members, in the middle of our own battle to defend pensions from Tory cuts, could do well to consider how the Liverpool 47 led the movement to a victory. 

The NUT is a left-led union – certainly no longer a Union that would play a role to deliberately try to undermine the movement – as was regrettably the case with Liverpool NUT’s leadership in the ‘80s. But, regrettably, the NUT - a union with considerable potential power because of the economic effect of closing schools - is not on strike alongside the PCS, UCU, UNITE Health and others on May 10th . Indeed, unless urgent pressure is brought to bear on the NUT Executive majority, it looks like we might not be on strike in June either.

I can see first-hand how the fear of isolation, of attacks from the press, of lack in confidence in our members’ will to struggle – is dragging down Left leaders.

The French revolutionary Babeuf explained that, even for the most well-meaning leader, “it is only too easy to become discouraged by the difficulties and dangers involved in taking a case to the public, and only too tempting to conclude that the enterprise is hopeless before even putting the matter to the test”.

So it could have been with Liverpool. The Liverpool 47 were faced with the choice between making cuts – or carrying out its programme of protecting rents and creating jobs and homes. They could have retreated, like other councils did – including erstwhile Lefts like David Blunkett in Sheffield and, when put to the test, Ken Livingstone too during the 1985 ratecapping battles. But, instead, they were famously, "the city that dared to fight".

But to fight – and to win – requires a strategy. In Liverpool – and in the poll tax battle that also defeated Thatcher – it was the clear analysis of the socialists and marxists around Militant that helped guide the movement to victory. That doesn’t mean that, as in any battle, mistakes weren’t made. The decision by the Labour Group in 1985 to issue redundancy notices to gain the movement some financial breathing space was definitely a mistake, but an honest one, one that was then vilely seized upon by Neil Kinnock to slander the Liverpool 47.

The key strategy – which if there were a council with any kind of fighting leadership should be being followed today – was to identify the shortfall in the budget required to defend jobs and services – and then to launch a mass campaign to demand that money be restored to the city council.

First of all that meant clear and energetic explanation – going out to the workforce and local community to simply spell out the key facts in mass meetings, at trade union branches, on the factory gates, through door to door leafleting and canvassing. 

In Liverpool, the campaign was to explain to workers and the public why the Council needed to set a no-cuts budget and to campaign for the resources that had been stolen from the city to be returned – just as now, public sector unions need to be energetically exposing the blatant and unjustified robbery of our pensions and the attempts to increase pension ages to 68 and more.

It meant organisation - bringing together a campaign committee of public and private-sector trade unionists, tenants groups, women and youth; a vibrant District Labour Party; a thriving Joint Shop Stewards Committee to cut across the dead-hand of the full-time officials; and, of course, the meetings of Militant supporters to hammer out tactics and strategy too.

Above all, it meant having confidence and trust in the determination of working people to struggle – not in cross-class appeals to capitalist politicians and the Bishops that some saw as the way to win. If you can show that you have a serious program of action to meet the aspirations of ordinary working-class and middle-class people – for a decent job on a decent wage, a living pension in retirement, a decent place to live and a good school for your kids – then, if you give a lead, working people will follow and can surprise even the most 'Left’ of leaders with their determination, creativity and energy.

The struggle meant building and mobilising support for mass actions that would display the strength of the movement – the mass demonstration in November 1983, the city-wide strike of March 1984, leading to the further election victory in the 1984 council elections – which all helped force the Tories to concede £60 million - nearly all the money the campaign was seeking from the Government. 

There is no doubt that the Tories settled, in part, to allow them to concentrate on defeating the miners. But that wasn’t down to the Liverpool 47, nor the NUM - it was down to the leaders of the labour and trade union movement who, having refused to back the Liverpool struggle, left the miners isolated and without the solidarity action that could have driven back the Tories.

Once the miners were defeated, Thatcher was even more determined to defeat Liverpool. But the 1984 victory had encouraged 20 or so other Labour Councils to make a stand. Liverpool didn’t want to fight alone – but recognising the weaknesses of many of its allies in the other Labour Councils – was always prepared to do so if it had to. 

The NUT needs to take the same approach – and appeal to the NASUWT to join us in strike action over pensions – but be ready to fight without them if necessary.

Despite Liverpool’s efforts, the united front soon fell apart, as council after council abandoned the 'no rate' tactic. Liverpool was eventually left to fight alone. The unelected District Auditor was then sent in to surcharge councillors – for the terrible crime of not setting a rate for three months!

Everything was thrown at Liverpool to undermine the struggle. In the wake of the Heysel Stadium tragedy in April 1985, Liverpool was attacked as being a city run by bullies and barbarians - but who were the real bullies? Who stood for the widest debate and discussion in communities and trade unions? And who for overriding the democratic decisions of Liverpool voters?

The fact is that Thatcher could never defeat the Liverpool 47 democratically. Liverpool Labour won every election in that period and with some of the highest votes and electoral turnouts ever seen in the city – a testament to how the struggle lifted the level of understanding of workers across Liverpool. Turnouts in local elections were well over 50% - in Liverpool last year the turnout was 36%! 

After Kinnock's treacherous speech condemning Liverpool at the 1985 Labour Party Conference, Denis Healey told Kinnock his speech had won Labour the next general election. What happened? In the 1987 election Kinnock got the second lowest vote for Labour since 1931.

Attacked by the unelected courts - who ordered the Liverpool 47 out of office, by the Labour and trade union leaders, as well as by the Tories, the years from 1985 to 1987 were a period of orderly retreat – but one that still managed to hold out sufficiently to make sure, for example, that the housing programme could be completed. Those gains remain as a testament to the campaign of the Liverpool 47.

Trade unionists and socialists need to learn from history and from the struggles of the past, so as not to get thrown off course by this or that difficulty. In the period that followed in the 1990s and beyond, it seemed to some that capitalism had triumphed. However, it is now surely becoming crystal clear that it was only storing up even greater problems, problems that it is unable to resolve.

Therefore, with the help of this film, we need to remember the struggle of the Liverpool 47 in order to help us win mass struggles again – as part of a struggle for a socialist future. 

Thursday 26 April 2012

Pensions - NUT Executive discusses ongoing campaign

... but fails to set any firm dates for further strike action

For a further report explaining why I put forward the amendment calling for action in June, see:

At the request of a group of Executive members, including myself, a special NUT National Executive meeting was held this afternoon to discuss how to progress the campaign on pensions, in light of the decisions taken by Annual Conference over Easter.

A Report from Officers set out how Conference decisions were being put into practice, including:
  • Meetings that had taken place with other 'refusnik' unions to discuss joint campaigning and action
  • A paper being prepared on the demands we should place on the Government around the retirement age and increased contribution rates
  • Work looking at whether strike pay might be able to support targeted local action
  • Consideration of wider ballots on other issues, including local pay, that might include strike and non-strike sanctions
  • Analysis of a survey of Division Secretaries' views on national and local action this term, both with and without the NASUWT
  • Developing a "68 is too late" campaign with other unions
  • Supporting the call for a national demonstration in the Autumn along the lines of the monster demonstration on March 26 last year
There were some good suggestions made, but members that were seeking some greater urgency in setting out the 'calendar of action' agreed by NUT Conference will, unfortunately, still have to wait for any confirmed dates for further action.

The NUT will definitely not be taking action - locally or nationally - on May 10th but will ask Divisions to contact local UNITE Health groups and PCS branches to offer support and solidarity. Some areas will also plan lobbies and support local rallies and demonstrations on the day. For example, London Divisions are planning a Lobby of the DFE to protest in particular about the loss of pay this month from imposed higher pension contributions.

Regrettably, there was no firm decision on taking the further day of national strike action in June that had been agreed as an aim by Annual Conference. That debate will continue at the next Executive meeting - ironically on May 10th!

I proposed an amendment suggesting that we make our intention to take action in June clear from today, so we can go out and build over as long a period as possible and start to offer a clear calendar of action to NUT members. However, a majority wanted to postpone consideration of that decision until May 10th pending further discussions with other unions - especially the NASUWT.

Worryingly to me, some of the contributions made clear that some Executive members would not support the NUT taking strike action in June without the support of the NASUWT. While it is positive that some discussions about joint campaigns - on pensions and other key issues - are going on between the two unions, there is no indication that the NASUWT will join us in a June strike.

Waiting for confirmed NASUWT  involvement could well mean postponing further action to at least October - meaning most NUT members will not have taken strike action on pensions for nearly a year. As I stated to the Executive, I fear that there is a real danger in demobilising members for such a long period of time.

Those members of the Executive also seem to have forgotten that the Conference agreed that "we cannot make the willingness of the NASUWT to take part as a necessary requirement before proceeding to call further strike action".

A  further amendment was agreed that suggested we consult with Divisions about taking local action in particular areas - perhaps those of key Cabinet Ministers later this term.

For now, all of those discussions are postponed for further debate at the Executive on May 10th. Members, school groups and NUT Associations that DO want to see the NUT taking national action again THIS term - perhaps alongside other unions like the PCS - need to be lobbying their Executive members urgently over the next two weeks.

The 'Local Associations for National Action'  Pensions Conference in Liverpool on June 16 also takes on even greater significance. Delegates from NUT Divisions need to be there to help to build support for action and to give confidence to teachers who will rightly feel let down by the Executive majority's prevarication.

Wednesday 25 April 2012

Teachers taking strike action today

NUT and UNISON members are on strike today at Central Foundation Girls' School in Tower Hamlets over cuts, redundancies, worsening of support staff conditions and threats to increase teacher workload.

Nottingham City teachers are also on strike again today over the 5 Term Year. Bilborough 6th Form College teachers are also on strike over redundancies and working conditions. Here they are in the rain too!

Tuesday 24 April 2012


UPDATE: Confirmed venue and timings of Conference: Saturday 16 June 11.00 - 3.30, Quaker Meeting House, 22 School Lane Liverpool L1 3BT
 On the last evening of the NUT Annual Conference in Torquay, over 150 delegates attended a fringe meeting held under the banner of "Local Associations for National Action". This email has been sent out to inform those who attended of a follow-up Conference to be held later this term and to seek  support for the event.


The "Local Associations for National Action" Conference is being called for Saturday 16 June in Liverpool. We will contact you further very soon with a confirmed venue and programme but, for now, please do keep that date free and ask your Local Association to sponsor the event (see model motion below).

We also need sponsorship for the conference from local associations and divisions. Donations would be welcome and there will be a fee for the conference. Again details to follow.  


A model motion based on the one circulated at the fringe meeting in Torquay, calling on the Union to announce a calendar of action and asking NUT Associations to support the Local Associations Conference, is pasted below.

We would be grateful if Local Associations and/or school meetings could support the motion and send copies to your NUT Executive member(s).  


Following NUT Conference, every NUT Divisional Secretary was sent a link to a survey canvassing their views on support for pensions action next term. It includes a range of options including action in May/June or later in June; local/regional or national action; action with/without the NASUWT. The survey has to be returned by Tuesday 24 April. Please contact your Divisional Secretary to discuss their response.  

These survey results will presumably be discussed at an emergency meeting of the NUT National Executive convened at the request of Executive members seeking a clear calendar of pensions action. The Executive will take place on the afternoon on Thursday April 26. Please contact your Executive member to pass on your views.  

Finally, the PCS, UNITE (Health), NIPSA  and others have confirmed that they will be taking national strike action in defence of pensions on May 10th. Regrettably, in our opinion, Kevin Courtney was quoted in the Guardian as confirming that "the NUT will not be taking national action on 10 May" although it is unclear if any regional action is still being suggested. Again, do contact your NUT Executive members with your views.
( ).

Greg Foster (Cheshire West and Cheshire)
Nina Franklin (Bristol)
Steve Hafford (Wirral)
Sally Kincaid (Wakefield)
Julie Lyon-Taylor (Liverpool)
Sue McMahon (Calderdale)
Patrick Murphy (Leeds)
Martin Powell-Davies (Lewisham)
"Local Associations for National Action" Steering Committee


This Division/Association notes
1.          the meeting called by a number of Union associations at Conference to discuss the pensions campaign and prepare an amendment to the priority motion;
2.          that over 100 delegates attended this meeting and agreed an amendment to the priority motion, which set out a specific calendar of action for the next term;
3.          the anger and regret expressed by many delegates during and after the debate on the priority motion and amendments that the amendment from this meeting was not allowed to be voted on in full;
4.          that despite this fact, Conference passed a section of the amendment which said that the Union should "urgently approach other unions who have not accepted the government's final proposals to seek support for this plan of action, and to urgently announce the confirmed calendar of action to our members and the press";
5.          that many delegates went away from the pensions debate confused and unclear about the Union's message to members and exactly what delegates should report to the wider membership.
6.        that a second local associations meeting at Conference on Monday night attracted over 150 delegates.

This Division/Association calls on the Executive to:
1.          carry through the clear instructions from Conference;
2.          announce a calendar of action that makes it clear to Union members - and to the government - that we are serious about winning this battle, including naming dates for further national action in June and beyond.

This Division/Association resolves to:
1.          support the initiative being taken by 'Local Associations for National Action on Pensions';
2.          promote the work of this group to local members;
3.          support the Local Associations Conference on Saturday 16 June in Liverpool by sending _____ delegates

Monday 23 April 2012

Lewisham NUT Reps Say YES to National Action on Pensions

Before completing the latest NUT Divisional Secretaries' survey on pensions action, I wanted to consult with NUT Reps in Lewisham over their views on three key questions. 32 have responded ( 13 primary, 13 secondary, 6 special ). Although a small sample, the responses give a clear enough picture: 
  • The vast majority of reps responding to the survey believe that members WILL support further action but there is a clear preference for National Action over Regional Action.
  • Over four-fifths of Lewisham reps responding think that NUT members would take strike action with or without the NASUWT
  • A third of replies support taking action on May 10 AND in June as well. While there are a range of views over what should or should not come first, over four-fifths support national action in June.
QUESTION ONE: If Lewisham NUT members were asked to take further action on a regional basis, which of these responses most clearly reflects the response of most NUT members in your school: 

Would definitely take part in another regional strike like March 28 19%
Would take part, but only if it was part of a program of rolling strikes in other regions too 8%
Would reluctantly take part but would prefer to take part in national strike action 42%
Would take part in a national strike but unlikely to take part in a further regional strike 28%
Would be unlikely to take part in a further regional or national strike 3%

The vast majority of reps believe that members WILL support further action but there is a clear preference for National Action over Regional Action. A typical comment from a primary rep, based on the experience of the London action on March 28, was: "We would prefer to go for ongoing national action as we think we really need to try to have an impact to get the issue on the national news, which the recent regional strike seemed not to manage to do".
QUESTION TWO: How much difference do you think it would make to most NUT members in your school if the NASUWT again refuse to join in our next action?

It would make little difference to most members whether the NASUWT are striking or not 31%
NASUWT involvement would be helpful but most NUT members would still strike if they don't 53%
NASUWT involvement would make a big difference. Only a minority of NUT members will strike without NASUWT involvement. 13%
Most NUT members are unlikely to strike again without the NASUWT striking too 3%

Over four-fifths of Lewisham reps think that NUT members would take strike action with or without the NASUWT. While most reps think NASUWT involvement would be helpful, another comment from a primary rep sums up the majority view "Obviously co-ordinated action is better but we should not be hamstrung by reluctance on the part of other unions".

QUESTION THREE: Please choose the response that best matches what you think we could achieve in your school if further action is called this term? 

Members would be unlikely to support strike action again this term 11%
Members would want to see other regions taking action first then national action in June 17%
Members would support national action in May alongside other unions - but not again in June 6%
Members would support taking national action again in June - but not on May 10 33%
Members would support taking action on May 10 - and a further day of national action in June 33%

A third of reps support taking action on May 10 AND in June as well. While there are a range of views over what should or should not come first, over four-fifths support national action in June. Some reps referred to the policy unanimously agreed at the Lewisham NUT AGM calling on the Union to support “an escalating program of national action in the summer term and beyond, including considering action of more than one day's duration”

As with all data, it's easy to draw the conclusion you already favour from any set of statistics - but these responses - and the experience of the London strike - confirm my view that this Thursday's NUT Executive needs to:

1) Announce that the NUT is taking a programme of ongoing pensions action this term and beyond, with the programme emphasising national strikes rather than regional ones.

2) Seek to co-ordinate our action with other unions, including the NASUWT, but to proceed with the support of the 'willing', not be held back by those unions who are not prepared to act this term.
3) Announce definite proposed dates for further strike days this term - certainly a national strike of 1 or 2 days in June and at least regional - if not national - action alongside the PCS and others on May 10th.
4) In the light of decisions taken by Conference on a range of other key issues, also make preparations for a new ballot, that could include strike and non-strike action, which enables the Union to respond to these other threats.

Saturday 21 April 2012

On 3 May - Vote against the pro-cuts consensus

This is a government of the rich for the rich. That is the inescapable message of the Lib-Con coalition's ultra anti-working class budget and the whole cuts agenda. The claim that 'we are all in it together' lies in tatters. 

But the working class is left without a political voice to challenge this onslaught because Labour puts up no serious opposition. Its leaders, Eds Miliband and Balls, have basically backed up the Tories, claiming they would maintain their cuts and can't even commit a future Labour government to reviving the 50p tax rate on the super-rich. Labour cannot effectively challenge the destruction and privatisation of the NHS because it had similar policies in government. 

That is why the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) was set up by leading trade unionists and socialists, including the Socialist Party, to provide a political voice to the millions who oppose the cuts.

Where we're standing

TUSC is standing 133 candidates in 39 councils. In addition there is the TUSC list of 17 candidates for the Greater London Assembly, and the TUSC candidate for the mayor of Liverpool, Tony Mulhearn.

In Coventry the 17 candidates, including TUSC national chair and Socialist Party councillor Dave Nellist (standing for re-election), have endorsed the TUSC local elections policy platform (below) but are appearing on the ballot paper under their established electoral name, Socialist Alternative.

The London list is headed up by Alex Gordon, president of the RMT transport workers' union. The full list includes leaders of the fire fighters' union, the teachers and lecturers' unions, the prison officers' union and many other prominent activists. 

The full list is on the TUSC website: and includes many leading trade union activists. 

Thursday 19 April 2012

Calderdale NUT reps support ongoing national action

A survey carried out by Calderdale NUT on pensions action over the last few days confirms that, if you give a fighting lead, you will get a response from your members in support of strike action. 

Confirming the conclusion that many NUT members reached in London in discussions around our regional action in March, it also confirms school reps’ preference for national action over regional approaches.

Now the NUT Executive needs to put aside its doubts and, instead of finding reasons NOT to act, come up with a calendar of action that CAN still force this Government to retreat further on pensions – and take the lead in going out to convince members to take that action.

April Pension Survey of Calderdale NUT Reps & Members
In less than 3 days, 63% of reps responded to an internet survey. 

100% of reps expressed a preference for all regions being brought out together rather than separately in turn and/or for national over regional action.
85% of reps said they would be willing to take strike action on May 10th (with just a few primaries expressing concern about the SATs).

100% of reps said they were prepared to take national strike action in June, with a third also supporting more than a day’s action in June – and many supporting action in July as well.

(Thanks to Sue McMahon from Calderdale NUT for this information) 

The pensions’ battle continues

The edited article below, taken from the latest edition of 'Socialism Today', the journal of the Socialist Party, gives a summary of the need for concerted strike action against Con-Dem cuts - and, above all, against pensions robbery:

The full article can be read here:

THE PENSIONS’ BATTLE has been the centrepiece of the generalised struggle against government-imposed cuts over the last year. 

If the trade union movement was now to evacuate the scene of battle without deploying its full strength, it would be an enormous setback. That could, in turn, bolster the government at a time when it is on the back foot. This would have serious consequences for the struggle against the panoply of cuts, more than 90% of which have yet to be introduced. 

And yet this is precisely the danger which is posed by the defeatist approach of the right wing of the TUC, led by general secretary Brendan Barber, together with unions like Unison. Their acceptance of the ‘heads of agreement’ on pensions, despite promises of future action, broke the common front on this issue. 

Now, the leadership of the biggest teachers’ union, the NUT, is prevaricating. The union received an overwhelming majority in a consultative ballot for national strike action, to join up with unions like the PCS civil servants and UCU lecturers’ union on 28 March. But the nominally left leadership first of all rejected national strike action. Then, under pressure from some on the left, including Socialist Party members, agreed to regional action in London on that day. 

This retreat, in turn, made it impossible for the PCS to call on its members to come out in a national strike on 28 March. The PCS’s own consultative ballot, which resulted in overwhelming support for national strike action, was specifically linked to other unions, such as the NUT, coming out on the same day. But, despite the confusion, the 28 March strike in London was very successful, with up to 10,000 teachers and supporters marching through London. 

There was, therefore, an expectation that the Easter annual conference of the NUT would decide on decisive national action to defeat the government’s attacks on pensions. Notwithstanding the inaccurate headlines in the press, which gave the impression that the union had come out in favour of a serious strategy of national action, this was not the case. The national leadership once more dithered and, in effect, decided not to decide. 

Its muddled message was that a combination of measures including regional strike action – not necessarily on the central issue of pensions but also on the government’s proposals to introduce regional pay – would be deployed but with national action not completely ruled out. It gives the impression that they have no confidence that teachers will respond to a fighting lead. Yet when they have been called upon to demonstrate their support, teachers have responded magnificently. This was shown by the tremendous, militant demonstration on 28 March in London. 

Kevin Courtney, NUT deputy general secretary, said that teachers would be “very angry” when the first phase of the three-year increase in contributions kicked in this month, leading to an overall average contribution increase of 50% over three years. “For the first time since the 1930s, we think, teachers will see a reduction, a cash reduction, in their take-home pay, because the contributions go up”. The NUT has calculated that an inner-London teacher with ten years’ experience will lose an extra £49 a month from April, which is expected to rise to £123 a month by April 2014. 

The central issues around the pensions dispute – the extension of the pension age, the raised level of contributions, and declining benefits – are beginning to be widely understood, discussed and rejected by teachers. Strikes are a necessary stage in the development of the consciousness of workers, including teachers who increasingly see themselves as working in factory-like conditions, under enormous stress, heavy workload, etc. Moreover, they have considerable power, as indicated by the howls of anguish from parents and employers whenever teachers go on strike! The strikes have allowed the acquisition of invaluable experience by teachers, which can begin to separate out and develop a new layer of teachers who will play a key role in changing and radicalising the unions.

A successful outcome of the pension struggle depends upon the NUT, together with the PCS and UCU leaderships, deciding now for national strike action, perhaps on 10 May. 

The perception that many workers still have is that the current situation is merely a passing phase – that pensions, job opportunities, terms and conditions can just be ‘trimmed’ now and, in the future, ‘better times’ will return. This is a complete myth. The reality is that capitalism offers a future of ‘eternal austerity’. Don’t just take our word for this. The Observer pointed out: “Worse is to come. Last week, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development predicted that Britain could face decades of spending cuts and tax increases”. (15 April). The OECD should know, representing as it does the richest and most ruthless capitalist countries in the world. 

But a determined campaign by the unions on pensions – which, we repeat, includes national strike action – could not be better timed, given the weakness of David Cameron’s government, its policies in tatters. 

Support for the government has collapsed to its lowest since the 2010 general election. The Tories have dropped from 37% to 34%, with their Liberal Democrat ‘allies’ in government on 11%. Cameron is openly attacked as “Britain’s first dilettante prime minister since Herbert Asquith… Mouth open, but hands-off.” (Anthony King, Financial Times.) Thatcher herself, King points out, contrary to later impressions, proceeded cautiously in her first period in office. Cameron proceeded very quickly to attack the working class. 

However, what King does not take into account is the much deeper crisis of capitalism today. Yet on managing the economy, where Cameron was previously ahead in polls, now 53% of people say they do not trust him to lead the country through the economic turbulence! The consequence of all this is that Labour is up to 40%. This has nothing to do with support for Ed Miliband. The sensational result in the Bradford West by-election illustrates this, as does the fact that Miliband’s personal ratings are on minus 41%! 

Overall, latest figures show more than 2.6 million unemployed people are chasing 450,000 vacancies across the country – a ratio of nearly six to one. James Ball in the Guardian commented: “the worst affected areas are spread all round the country: Clackmannanshire in Scotland has 35 jobseekers for every vacancy; the Isle of Wight has 21; Haringey, London, 19; and Inverclyde 18”. These figures apply not just to full-time jobs but part-time jobs as well. If it were just full-time jobs that were being chased it would mean that four million rather than 2.6 million would be chasing them! This truly horrendous unemployment figure, which now has a tendency to become permanent, criminally affecting young people, shows the daunting scale of problems which beset working-class people on the basis of capitalism. 

It makes it even more urgent for the labour movement to resist tooth and nail the offensive of the government and the ruling class. The ruling class of Europe is attempting to use the spectacle of impoverished Greece as a scarecrow in order to prevent resistance by the working class in their own countries; ‘see what happens when you engage in senseless strikes and demonstrations’. Nothing could be further from the truth. If you fight it is possible to defeat or at least limit the damage. Weakness invites aggression. This is the real lesson of Greece and of all workers’ struggles. It is the lesson of the pensions’ battle; resolute leadership combined with correct policies and programme can yet inflict defeat on the government and hasten its downfall. 

A political aternative, however, is also vital. We have had a dramatic demonstration of the seismic shift which is underway in British politics in the Bradford West by-election, with George Galloway’s spectacular victory. The main parties – Tories, Lib Dems and New Labour – are increasingly seen, in the words of Galloway, as “three cheeks of the same backside”. When a real alternative is presented, increasing layers of workers and youth will opt for this. 

This is revealed not just by Galloway’s victory but also by the massive response which the Left Front candidate in the French presidential elections, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, has received. In opinion polls, his share of the vote has doubled to 15% – latest polls put him at 17% – since he started his campaign. The conditions are there already for the beginnings of a new mass party of the working class.

Tuesday 17 April 2012

May 10 set for joint national action - what about the NUT?

The PCS National Executive have announced a plan of joint strike action alongside other unions in defence of pensions, starting with a national strike on May 10.

Regrettably, although I spoke at NUT Annual Conference making clear that this was the likely plan, and warned that the NUT would be letting down both our members and members of other unions if we did not participate in this action, there is, as yet, no commitment from the NUT to take part in this May 10 strike either nationally or regionally.

Let's hope that when the emergency meeting of the NUT National Executive takes place next week, the NUT can come on board as well - preferably nationally - or at least with some co-ordinated regional action on May 10. 

At the very least, we need a clear commitment to taking national action in June when the PCS suggest they might be looking to take further action.

Here is the PCS statement:

National executive agrees plans for ongoing action

17 April 2012
The union's national executive this afternoon unanimously agreed a programme of ongoing action, starting with national strikes over pensions co-ordinated with other unions on 10 May and at the end of June.
The action across the civil service, health and education, will include joint national strikes; national, regional and local protests; lobbying of ministers, MPs and other politicians; and co-ordinated, targeted industrial action in employer groups and sectors.
The plans are designed to help build the maximum possible level of co-ordination between unions in the weeks and months ahead, to press the government for more meaningful negotiations.
Following our ballot result – in which 90.5% voted to reject the government's pensions offer and 72.1% voted for a programme of further action – we wrote to Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude requesting genuine negotiations but, as yet, have not received a reply.
Since March we have successfully worked to build a coalition of unions ready to take the action needed to put real pressure on the government.
Unite has already announced that its members in health will hold national strike action on 10 May and a ballot of Unite members in the civil service closes tomorrow, with an expectation they will also join the action.
In education, UCU has previously agreed to take co-ordinated national strike action and its executive meets next week. Following its annual conference, the NUT executive is also due to meet next week to take final decisions on rolling regional and national strikes, including proposed national action in June.
The main Northern Ireland public sector union Nipsa has confirmed plans to take action on that date and RMT members in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary will also be on strike.
The action will come a day after the Queen's Speech, which is expected to include a parliamentary bill forcing through changes to public sector pensions that will mean civil and public servants paying much more every month and working up to eight years longer for a lower pension in retirement.
Campaign plans for members in employer groups are being drawn up alongside proposals for national action, with groups encouraged to consider how their own issues are taken forward.
On 10 May, we will be organising strike day activities in each region with other unions – including, marches and rallies – and we will look to include other campaign groups such as the National Pensioners Association, UK Uncut, Disabled People Against the Cuts, BARAC and local anti-cuts alliances.
The Police Federation is also planning a national march through central London on 10 May to protest about cuts to pay, pensions and jobs.
More information about these plans will be posted to our website by early next week.
Since the last NEC, lobbying events have been organised, starting with a protest in deputy prime minister Nick Clegg's constituency in Sheffield at the weekend,. Others are planned in the constituencies of key cabinet members, including David Cameron, George Osborne, Francis Maude, Michael Gove and Danny Alexander.

Sunday 15 April 2012

Call on your Union to act to stop pensions robbery

April : the pay cuts begin
April 2012 is the month when the pensions robbery starts to take effect - as teachers see their pay being cut through the imposition of increased pensions contributions.
According to the NUT pensions loss calculator, a UPS1 teacher is set to lose £27 from their monthly salary, £44 if teaching in Inner London.
That’s only the first year of the three-year phased increase. By 2014, the pay cut for the same grade is set to rise to £68 a month, a £820 yearly pay cut. In Inner London, it could be £113 a month!
With the rise in pension ages to 68 (or more) due to start in 2015, we are now in a decisive phase of the pensions campaign. We can’t let the campaign ebb away. We still have time to escalate a campaign of action to defeat this robbery.

March 28 : London shows the way
The solid response from NUT and UCU members to the strike across the London region on March 28 showed the depth of the anger that remains against these cuts.
Thousands of strikers marched through the centre of London and even the DfE had to admit that it caused 'significant' disruption.
NUT Conference congratulated the London membership for their response “which demonstrated a continued willingness to oppose the Government’s unacceptable threats to teachers’ pensions”.

Let’s step up the campaign
NUT Conference agreed to set a programme of local or regional strikes in the summer term, aiming to call a further national strike before the end of June 2012.
Delegates also agreed that the NUT “urgently approach the other unions who have not accepted the government’s final proposals … and announce the confirmed calendar of action”.
A special edition of ‘Classroom Teacher’ was given out to NASUWT Conference delegates urging them to join in action with the NUT. The press reported that the NASUWT might consider further strike action - which is a step forward - but only in the Autumn Term.
The NUT now needs to set that urgent calendar of action - and hope that the NASUWT can be persuaded to join in as well.

We need an action calendar
Most teachers have not now taken strike action since November. If we delay further, there is a risk that we lose all momentum. Some people are already doubting whether the campaign can be taken forward. It certainly can be - and it MUST be! We cannot allow pension ages to rise to 68 or 70. Nor can we give confidence to this Government to pile ahead with all their other attacks. We have to urgently set a calendar of action.

Call on your Union to act !
Pressure from below is essential to give unions the confidence to fight. NUT Division Secretaries have been sent a survey asking them to say if members would take part in further action - call your secretary and tell them you would strike!
NUT Executive members frustrated at the lack of a clear plan have also requisitioned an emergency meeting at the end of April. Call your Executive member and urge them to vote for action this term.

Come along to the Conference on June 16 to keep up the pressure:

Local Associations for National Action on Pensions Conference    
Saturday 16 June