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.

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