THE PENSIONS DEBATE
The key debate of the weekend - on the pensions campaign - was held this afternoon in 'private session'.
After London had shown members' willingness to act on March 28, the Executive Priority Motion proposed the flexible formula of 'bringing all other regions and Wales, in turn or together, into pensions action'. Two amendments were carried that added some further detail to that formulation. Unfortunately, however, amendments that spelt out specific dates for that action were either defeated or ruled out of order as a result of previous votes.
Conference voted to congratulate NUT members in London for their response to the strike call on March 28 and agreed that, in the light of that strike, we consider a further programme of targeted local or regional strikes in the summer term, aiming to organise a further one day national strike before the end of June.
A further amendment, agreed at the 'Local Associations for National Action meeting' held on Friday night, added that "we 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". Unfortunately, and to anger amongst some delegates at the way the debate was handled, the specific calendar of action in the amendment was ruled out of order.
This followed an earlier vote that defeated an amendment specifically proposing the idea of taking a one-day strike alongside PCS, UNITE Health and other unions planning to take national action on May 10th.
Speaking in the debate, I criticised the decision not to call national action on May 10th. In failing to do so, I explained that I felt we were letting down both those unions and our own members by failing to grasp this opportunity to unite with other unions in action.
Other speakers did not want to agree such a specific timetable at this stage and were particularly keen to continue discussions with the NASUWT before announcing further national action. However, while united action amongst teaching unions is clearly preferable, I also made clear that we could not rely on the NASUWT taking action in the summer term.
Conference agreed to a clause in the amendment (again originating from the Local Associations meeting) that said that "while recognising the clear benefits of joint action ... 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 ongoing pensions campaign".
As delegates left Conference, there was understandable concern that, while Conference had correctly agreed to continue to pursue a plan of co-ordinated action, there was, as yet, still no specific dates announced for further national and/or regional action, nor any specific plans fixed for further regions to take action after London. The National Executive meeting at the end of Conference, on Tuesday, must urgently be able to provide some confirmed plans if we are going to be able to build momentum when we return to schools for the new term.
The lack of clear direction has added urgency to the plans made from last night's Local Associations meeting to call a national 'Local Associations Conference' next term. Plans for a date and venue, probably in Liverpool, are now being confirmed.
In brief: Workload and Capability
There were also some important decisions made by Conference to combat both the Government's attempts to introduce a 'bullies charter' in place of existing 'capability' arrangements and about tackling the worsening levels of teacher workload.
A motion calling for nationally co-ordinated strike action to oppose unacceptable capability procedures was agreed, as was an amendment proposed by Lewisham NUT on workload which instructed 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".
A well-attended 'Classroom Teacher' fringe meeting at lunchtime heard from some of the delegates speaking in the workload debate. Teachers discussed how we need to put pressure on both the NUT and, particularly, the NASUWT leadership, to commit both unions to joint action over workload, pensions - and all the other attacks we face.