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 !

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