Promoted by David Beale, 36 Pleasant View, Withnell, Chorley PR6 8SE on behalf of Martin Powell-Davies of TUSC.

Thursday 31 May 2012

Join the debate at the NSSN Conference

9 June: National Shop Stewards Network Sixth Annual Conference 

Speakers include:  
Bob Crow, RMT General Secretary
Mark Serwotka, PCS General Secretary  
Rank & File construction electrician
Kevin Courtney, NUT Deputy General Secretary

Fight back against austerity  - come to this vital conference on 9th June!
Linda Taaffe, secretary, National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN)
The barrage of government attacks on living standards is relentless, with the rich Tory boys leading the charge. Hardly a day goes by without announcements of new measures to make life even harder for some group of workers or young people. One week it is the disabled at Remploy. Next 'undeserving' families. But it is always working people that are being made to pay for the capitalist crisis. 

The Con-Dem coalition is firming up plans for regional pay in the public sector, carving up the country into different (low) pay areas. They also want to loosen the TUPE laws that currently give a modicum of protection to employees transferred out to private companies. Now 'Apprentice' style "you're fired" deregulation is being touted as the only way to enable businesses to grow! 
Given that this dreadful state faces us after only around 8% of the cuts have been implemented, the big questions are: "Can workers' organisations be just as relentless in defending us from this onslaught? Is the Trades Union Congress capable of marshalling all our forces to halt the bosses' greed? What is it that trade unionists on the ground have got to do to turn the tide and stop these cuts?"

These, and other questions, will be at the forefront of the conference of the National Shop Stewards Network when hundreds of workers and young people from across the country will be gathering in London on 9 June.

They will take stock of the battle so far. They will make plans about how trade unionists can be the driving force that can help forge a mighty roadblock and stop this millionaire Con-Dem juggernaut.

Greek solidarity 
Five years ago Greek workers experienced public spending cuts similar to those being implemented by the Con-Dem government today. Many believed, and hoped, such cutbacks would be a temporary blip in the economic cycle. Things would get better soon, wouldn't they? Now they are on the verge of destitution.

If we in Britain put up a less than serious fight now against Cameron, Clegg and their business friends, then Greek conditions will undoubtedly be waiting for us too.

We hope to link up with Greek workers at the NSSN conference to hear first hand of their experiences, and what we can do to forge international solidarity. Also, along with leaders of some of our most militant unions, and rank and file fighters, will be Esenbek from Kazakhstan, where striking oil workers were ruthlessly attacked, and where worker and socialist activists are regularly jailed.

Trade unions are the organisations of the "99%". The NSSN was initiated by the RMT transport union to help revitalise trade unions from the bottom up.

So, if you are a young person facing a lifetime of joblessness or slave wages, come along. If you are a trade unionist wondering when the unions are going to stand up together and be counted, come along. If you are a health worker, a teacher, a transport worker, a postie... your place is at the NSSN conference on 9 June. All welcome.

Saturday 9 June, 11am-4pm,
Friends Meeting House, Euston Road, London NW1 2BJ (opposite Euston train & tube station)
Book your place now!

Let's tackle the observations onslaught!

In the light of the new regulations brought in by Michael Gove, some Local Authorities and schools are opening discussions over new appraisal and capability procedures. 

The starting position in negotiations will be to stick with the 'status quo' where acceptable procedures are already in place. However, the NUT, ATL and NAHT have now agreed a joint appraisal policy to offer as an alternative to the punitive DfE model policy - a policy that links appraisal to fast-track capability procedures. The contents of the joint union model policy have been negotiated between the three unions - although in the end the ASCL rejected it.

The NASUWT have issued their own model policy - but, in the light of the joint declaration this week, let's hope that there can be agreement between the NUT and NASUWT over other key issues, not least an 'observation protocol'.

The joint model policy does include some safeguards on observations, for example stating that feedback from lesson observation should be developmental and not simply a judgement using Ofsted grades.
However, no agreement over limits on classroom observations, especially unannounced 'drop-ins' and 'learning walks', was reached. 

But this is a key issue for many teachers who are facing an increasingly bullying observation regime, with teachers being criticised, demoralised and branded as 'failures', particularly through application of the harsh Ofsted framework. This is a framework which, after all, seems to be designed to 'fail' schools - perhaps so that they can be forced into becoming Academies!

That's why, backed up with the forthcoming ballot, NUT members need to fight to make sure that the NUT's reissued Classroom Observation Protocol (and the policy on Learning Walks and Drop-Ins) is adopted across schools in their area. 

You can find the joint policy and the classroom observation protocols on the National NUT website on:

Some of the key points in the protocols are: 
  • Classroom observation for the purposes of performance management/appraisal will be limited to one observation per teacher, of a maximum of 60 minutes in length per performance management cycle, except in exceptional circumstances. Those exceptional circumstances are where the reviewee chooses to request a further observation, or where concerns have been raised about a teacher’s performance which require further observation to take place. 
  • In the exceptional circumstances in which more than one observation of a maximum of 60 minutes is to be conducted, this governing body agrees that the amount of observation will be kept to the shortest necessary period on the fewest number of occasions, with a maximum overall limit of three hours of observation, made up of observations on no more than three occasions. This overall limit will apply to all observations carried out for the statutory purposes of performance management/appraisal and evaluation of standards of teaching and learning, meaning that no teacher will be observed on more than three occasions of up to one hour over an academic year, including drop-ins and learning walks.  
  • The date and time of observations conducted for the purposes of performance management/appraisal or for the evaluation of standards of teaching and learning (or for both purposes) will be fixed at least five working days in advance. 
  • Before any performance management/appraisal observation is conducted, there will be an opportunity for reviewer and reviewee to meet in order that the context of the lesson to be observed can be discussed.
  • The arrangements for classroom observation for performance management will be included in the planning and review statement and will specify any particular aspects of the teacher’s performance which will be assessed
  • Oral feedback from classroom observation at a pre-arranged time for the purposes of performance management will be given as soon as possible after the observation and no later than the end of the following working day. Written feedback will be provided within five working days of the observation taking place.
  • The purpose or focus of a ‘learning walk’ should be explained to all relevant staff prior to its commencement. There shall be no evaluation of an individual teacher during a ‘learning walk’.
  • Any teacher whose classroom is visited during a ‘learning walk’ will have the visit counted towards the overall maximum of three observations per year, each of up to an hour in length

Tuesday 29 May 2012

A Strategy to Win !

VOTE YES and let's work together to defend teachers and education

Today’s meeting of NUT Divisional Secretaries from across England and Wales was the first chance to discuss and debate the actions teachers need to take over the next few weeks and months to maximise the potential of the joint declaration agreed between the NUT and NASUWT. If used to build firm united action between our two teaching unions, who together represent over 85% of teachers in England and Wales, we can successfully defend teachers and education against the unprecedented range of attacks we face.

The meeting was held to start planning “a strategy to win” – as NUT General Secretary Christine Blower put it – in response to this Government’s attacks on our pay, pensions and conditions of employment. Cameron and Gove are being backed to the hilt by Michael Wilshaw, Head of Ofsted, who incredibly declared in December that “if anyone says to you that ‘staff morale is at an all-time low’, you know that you are doing something right”.

These attacks are designed to demoralise teachers and break our resistance to the Coalition’s plans to privatise schools and to cut the jobs and support that our young people deserve. Just like their attacks on the NHS, we need to reach out to parents and the public to explain why our action is so vital to defend their children’s education as well as teachers’ working conditions. 

Let's set the dates for further pensions action

The NUT’s ballot covering ‘discontinuous’ action to defend our pensions allowed national action on June 30 and November 30 – and remains in place to sanction more strike action. However, the NUT Executive meeting in May voted to postpone that action until after the summer break. An early test of the NUT/NASUWT joint campaign will therefore be to turn the declaration into firm dates for national action – on pensions and wider issues – in the autumn.

The delay has understandably disappointed unions like the PCS, who took action alongside UNITE Health and UCU on May 10 and were hoping to take action alongside the NUT in June. The postponement of further action has also been particularly questioned by some of the London NUT members who took regional strike action in March and were expecting further regional or national action to follow. However, London members should be congratulated for their solid action which was vital to rebuild the momentum of the pensions campaign after the retreat made by unions like ATL and UNISON following November 30. It encouraged other public sector unions to act in May – and also played its part in bringing about the prospect of powerful joint action by the NUT and NASUWT.

I believe that a ‘strategy to win’ on pensions – to prevent the increase in pension ages to 68 or more and to stop further pay cuts – must include an urgent agreement between the NUT and NASUWT, together with other public sector unions, to set a calendar of dates for strike action, starting as soon as possible after the school summer break. The TUC’s national demonstration on October 20 will be an important part in that calendar. It should be used to build for further action, including liaising with private sector unions to see if we can call, in effect, a one-day general strike that could really shake the confidence of this millionaires’ Government to continue with their cuts and austerity agenda. 

This term, the NUT and NASUWT are also calling joint local demos on July 14 in both Cameron and Clegg’s constituencies in Sheffield and Oxfordshire and other local lobbies and activities are also being planned – following the example of the London NUT Lobby of the DFE on May 10. 

Extending our action beyond pensions

But, given all the attacks we face, we need to be legally free to take industrial action about other issues besides pensions as well. That’s why, from June 25, the NUT will also be balloting its members across all maintained schools and Academies to seek the legal sanction we need from a “YES” vote to extend our campaign to other key issues as well, such as:
·       On appraisal, the Government wants schools to implement a ‘bullies charter’ which will link appraisal directly to ‘capability’ procedures - with the threat of fast-track sackings.
·       On classroom observations, too many teachers are being bullied and demoralised by excessive and unsupportive management observations linked to harsh Ofsted criteria.
·       On workload, the continued stress and long hours are becoming totally intolerable, damaging teachers’ health and driving  staff out of the profession.
·       On jobs, teachers are threatened by funding cuts and curriculum reforms.
·       On pay, we face a continuing pay freeze, the threat of local pay and now new criteria designed to make it even harder to progress up both the main and upper pay spines.
·       On national conditions, even the limited rights in the current Pay and Conditions Document are threatened, especially in schools that are turned into Academies.

Immediately, we face an urgent battle to stop schools implementing the Government’s harsh model appraisal and capability policy. The NAHT, ATL and NUT have now agreed an alternative model policy for schools to adopt. Teachers also need to campaign for the Union’s model observation protocol to be adopted as well – which sets down that learning walks and ‘drop-ins’ will never be used for evaluations of individual teachers and that there will be a maximum of three observations of any teacher during an academic year. 

Again, ‘a strategy to win’ must mean NUT members – backed by the new ballot – taking strike action across schools, or across Local Authorities, where needed to win the implementation of policies acceptable to the Union. The NASUWT need to be  working with the NUT to achieve this aim as well, using their own existing ballot to take joint action.

To  make clear to the Government that we mean business, the NUT ballot needs to be won with a huge YES vote and the biggest turnout possible. From today, every NUT Association will be making plans to contact reps, to visit schools, to hold their pre-ballot briefings, to reach out to every member – and to keep chasing until the end of term to get those votes returned. The ballot will contain two simple questions – one to support strike action and another to support ‘non-strike’ action. NUT members should vote YES to both questions!

The NUT and NASUWT have made clear to the Government that we are willing to talk – but if the Government refuses to budge, then our action will start promptly in September.

Strengthen the campaign with clear and effective 'non-strike' sanctions 

Strike action is the clearest and most obvious action that we can take, hopefully co-ordinated with the NASUWT and other unions taking action over pensions and attacks on their own jobs and conditions. But ‘non-strike’ action can also be an immediate and ongoing part of the campaign – especially ‘work-to-rule’ sanctions that will give teachers the power to collectively refuse unacceptable demands and put their own limits on our currently unacceptable workload.

A discussion about the exact nature of those ‘non-strike’ sanctions began today – and needs to be taken into schools and Association meetings to debate further. Those ‘non-strike’ actions need to be clear and effective so that as many teachers and school groups as possible will feel confident to follow them, emboldened by the national joint campaign.

National Officers will be collating feedback from today’s workshops but popular sanctions that emerged from the discussions that I was involved in included:
·       Refusing to hand in plans to management – planning should be to help teachers teach, not a monitoring tool for management.
·       Refusing to attend more than one 60 minute meeting a week – with staff leaving together once a meeting exceeds this time limit.
·       Leaving the site shortly after the end of the school day – again, with staff leaving together as a collective act.
·       Refusing to work more than an overall thirty-five hours a week – working to the Union’s model contract and working-time policy.
·       Refusing to accept observations or drop-ins that do not adhere to the union’s observation protocol – perhaps telling pupils just to read in silence till the observer leaves. This could, as is being done by UTU and INTO in Northern Ireland, even be extended to Ofsted inspections.
Some of these sanctions are clearly easier to implement than others, and that’s why an urgent discussion of the right ‘strategy to win’ must be conducted throughout the union during the ballot period. Some of these sanctions are also already listed in the NASUWT’s existing ‘Action Short of Strike Action’ instructions to members. With the NUT also taking non-strike action, we hope that more NASUWT members will feel confident to firmly implement their union’s guidance. Of course, strike action is still the clearest sanction.

I think that one lesson of the NASUWT’s rather muted campaign so far is that ‘action-short-of-strike-action’ sanctions need to be focussed and publicised so that every teacher knows that colleagues in schools around the country are implementing the same action. A campaign will need to be waged to make sure that it isn’t just a minority of well-organised schools that take non-strike action, but that a large and growing majority of members feel confident to take part.

One idea suggested was that one major sanction should be introduced each month, eventually extending to full implementation of the full range of non-strike actions, like those listed above. Of course, if management start to try and break non-strike action through disciplinary threats or salary deductions, then strike action will certainly be required.

Take part in the debate - but get out the YES vote !

Today’s discussions were a significant step forward in developing and implementing the ‘strategy to win’. NUT and NASUWT members need to take a full part in those discussions and keep up the pressure on their Unions to implement a bold joint action strategy.

The National Shop Stewards Conference in London on June 9 and the Local Associations National Action Conference in Liverpool on June 16 are both important opportunities to continue that discussion and make sure we continue to co-ordinate action strategies with other public and private sector unions as well.

The immediate task for NUT reps, officers and members is to win the new action ballot. Next week will be a time for a well-earned half-term break for most teachers. But it will also be a useful time to prepare the mailings and school visits so that we return after the break ready to make sure that (1) every NUT member knows that the ballot is on its way and that (2) every NUT member is ready to vote YES to both ballot questions !

Monday 28 May 2012

NASUWT & NUT joint declaration of intent

The NASUWT and NUT have today launched the following joint declaration:

"Given the unprecedented and sustained attack by the Government on the teaching profession and the consequent damage to the education service, the two largest teachers’ unions, the NASUWT and NUT have agreed to act together in defence of teachers and of education.

This historic agreement arises from the serious concerns that members of both of our unions have about the way the present Government is undermining the education system. This agreement between two unions, that between them represent more than 85% of all teachers in England and Wales, should give the Government pause for thought.

Our members’ key concerns are about the attacks on their working conditions, workload, pensions, pay and jobs. Teachers’ conditions of service are inextricably linked to the provision of high quality education for all.

Our two unions intend to mount an unprecedented joint campaign on these issues. In particular, we will challenge:
  • unacceptable and excessive workload pressures which are damaging to teachers’ health and wellbeing, undermining teaching and learning and threatening educational standards;
  •  the failure of the Government to carry out the valuation of the Teachers’ Pension Scheme, the imposition of unfair contribution increases and changes to make teachers work to 68 or higher to get a full pension;
  •  the Government’s proposals for local pay and performance related pay and the continuation of the pay freeze for teachers;
  • the attack on teachers’ jobs and national terms and conditions of service, including those arising from the privatisation and academisation of schools;
  • threats to jobs arising from funding cuts and education and curriculum reforms.
We believe the threat to the profession and the education service is now so severe that jointly coordinated action is essential. We are writing to the Secretary of State for Education and, as appropriate, the Minister for Education in Wales, to seek urgent discussions about these issues which threaten teacher morale and the whole education system. We urge them to make the best use of the time available before the start of the next school year to reach agreement with us.

Our campaign will involve working jointly on political lobbying, public campaigns, research and negotiation, together with a jointly coordinated programme of industrial action, including action short of strike action and strike action.

Should the Government refuse to take the current opportunity to negotiate sensible arrangements which protect teachers and defend education, then it is our intention to move to escalate industrial action, including jointly coordinated strike action and action short of strike action in the autumn".

This declaration could be an important step towards powerful joint action by the big majority of classroom teachers in England and Wales - but NUT and NASUWT members will need to make sure that its full potential is realised. 

As the statement from the Steering Commitee to the LANAC Conference on June 16 has stated:

"[We] welcome and seek to maximise the potential of the national joint  declaration of intent between the NUT and NASUWT on action to defend pensions & jobs, and to fight excessive workload, local and performance pay, starting by making every effort to win the national NUT ballot this term with as large a majority and turnout as possible.

[We will] work to ensure that the joint NUT/NASUWT initiative:
(a) includes joint national strike action
(b) clearly and explicitly addresses the issue of pensions and demands the re-opening of talks with government
(c) leads to the development of rank and file links between the NUT and  NASUWT including across schools.
(d) is not used to justify further unnecessary delay in taking action alongside other trade unions seeking to build co-ordinated strike action.
(e) includes far more effective sanctions than those in the existing NASUWT ‘action-short-of-strike-action’

The NUT ballot - to widen our action to include other key issues as well as pensions - opens on June 25 - more news to follow shortly.

LIverpool Conference - final agenda and statement

Local Associations National Action Conference
June 16 - Quaker Meeting House Liverpool L1 3BT
Where Next in the Pensions Dispute?

Past: For over a year, NUT members have been engaged in one of the most critical industrial disputes inhe Union’s history - to defend our ability to retire at a reasonable age from one of the most stressful jobs there is on a decent pension. After two impressive days of national strike action co-ordinated with other public sector unions on June 30th and November 30th, the campaign has lost momentum. There will be an important ballot this term, to widen the pensions dispute to other key issues facing teachers but, sadly, it seems there are no plans for the NUT to be taking national strike action for several months at least.

Future: The network of local NUT divisions and associations organising this conference want to rebuild the momentum we had earlier in the year. We want to give activists the chance to consider whether and how we can put the NUT back in the lead of the pensions’ dispute. We are inviting all associations and divisions to support the conference and to send delegates to take part in the discussion. Conference sessions will be introduced briefly by opening speakers but as much time as possible will be kept for delegates' contributions.

AGENDA:        10.30:  Registration - Tea and Coffee
11.00:    Opening Session - Where now for the pensions campaign?

Chair: Julie Lyon Taylor (Liverpool NUT Secretary and National Executive)
Introduction: Patrick Murphy (Leeds NUT Secretary and National Executive)

12.30 - 1.30 Lunch / Working Groups

(A) Making our voices heard within the NUT - how we can lobby/pressurise the Union to act? Led by Nina Franklin (Bristol NUT Secretary & ex-President) & Martin Powell Davies (Lewisham NUT Secretary & NEC)
(B) Getting the message to teachers - materials / organisation to win members to action. Led by Sue McMahon (Calderdale NUT Secretary)
(C) Building links with other unions Led by Dave Harvey (Croydon NUT Secretary and National Executive)

1.30 Final Session:
Chair: Steve Hafford (President Wirral NUT)
1.30: Reportbacks from the Working Groups
1.45 Preparing for the ballot on other issues - how we can win     that ballot - but use it to support - not to cut across - pensions action.      Led by Anne Lemon (NUT National Executive).
2.30: Proposals for action after the Conference - taking views     and amendments from Divisions to the statement proposed by the    Conference Steering Committee followed by voting on proposals.      Led by Greg Foster (Cheshire West and Chester NUT Secretary)
3:30 Closing speech: Roy Bowser, Barnsley Secretary & NUT NEC.
 Proposed Statement from the Steering Committee
This conference agrees to maintain and build a network  of local associations and school reps that will enable teacher trade unionists to exchange information, debate and discuss strategy to defeat the serious attacks we face, call on our National Unions to implement such a strategy, and organise solidarity between local and national struggles with the following aims:
1.    Continue to work at every level in the NUT for the earliest possible return to collective industrial action in opposition to the attacks on pensions and for a calendar of action that can secure further concessions from this weakened Government.
2.    Develop a fightback on workload, capability and abuse of classroom observations at school, local and national level based on collective action by members, including both strike and non-strike sanctions, non-cooperation, defined limits to workload demands and spreading success.
3.    Identify, develop and spread the best examples of effective, confident organisation in the workplace which can deliver action, involve members and breakdown divisions between school unions, and build solidarity with associations, school groups and other unions taking action.
4.    Welcome and seek to maximise the potential of the national joint  declaration of intent between the NUT and NASUWT on action to defend pensions & jobs, and to fight excessive workload, local and performance pay, starting by making every effort to win the national NUT ballot this term with as large a majority and turnout as possible.
5.    Work to ensure that the joint NUT/NASUWT initiative:
(a)    includes joint national strike action
(b)    clearly and explicitly addresses the issue of pensions and demands the re-opening of talks with government
(c)    leads to the development of rank and file links between the NUT and  NASUWT including across schools.
(d)    is not used to justify further unnecessary delay in taking action alongside other trade unions seeking to build co-ordinated strike action.
(e) includes far more effective sanctions than those in the existing NASUWT ‘action-short-of-strike-action’
6.    Fight to have these priorities endorsed and prioritised by the national union and every NUT association.

From this Conference, we propose that:

a. We agree to set up a ‘Local Associations Network’ from today’s Conference that:
i) Hosts a website to publicise the network’s aims, to share materials that can be used in schools and associations to build local and national campaigns, and to inform teacher trade unionists about the latest developments in union campaigns, decisions and debates on the National Executive, and about actions being taken by teacher trade unionists and other public sector unions.
ii) is co-ordinated by a Steering Committee elected at today’s Conference. In electing the committee, the conference must ensure that the steering group is not dominated by any particular geographical area or political viewpoint but is inclusive to the range of associations supporting the aims of the network.
iii) produces a report of the discussion and decisions at today’s Conference to be distributed as widely as possible and certainly by associations sponsoring the Conference.
b. We publicise the concrete actions suggested at today’s Conference including:
iv) Sharing and circulating model materials urging NUT members to vote YES in the new ballot.
 v)  Calling on school groups and associations to lobby their NUT Executive members by sending letters and motions calling on them to vote for national strike action to be held as soon as possible next term, co-ordinated with unions who are willing to take action, such as PCS.
vi) Inviting Executive members to Association and school group meetings to explain the position they have taken and to listen to the views of members in schools.
c. We convene a further Local Associations Conference  next term to review progress made in both revitalising the pensions campaign - and in building effective action to tackle the other attacks facing teachers and education - and to discuss our next steps.

 Divisions are invited to send amendments to this statement - and further suggested actions - to the  Steering Committee for debate on June 16.  
However, in making proposals, please bear in mind the time limits of the Conference and that we are seeking general agreement around a set of common aims. 


Tuesday 22 May 2012

Downhills on strike today against academies

There was a fat cat lurking on the gates of Downhills School in Haringey this morning - although he bore a passing resemblance to an NUT member in a borrowed costume!

Today's strike at Downhills School was to expose and oppose its forced privatisation into the hands of Harris Academies. 

The stand taken by NUT members - and the wider school community - at Downhills is just what is needed to show that teachers and parents aren't going to just stand by and let community assets be handed over to the fat-cat friends of Gove and Cameron.

Teachers came from a number of NUT Associations to support the picket-line and staff and parents were gathering later in the park for a picnic and fun-day with Michael Rosen coming to show his support as well.

Saturday 19 May 2012

Mullivaikal remembered - show Tamil Solidarity today

Thousands of Tamils, including some of my school students and their families, will mark the third anniversary of Mullivaikal, the end of the war in Sri Lanka, with a commemorative rally in Trafalgar Square this evening, on Saturday 19 May. I am very privileged to have again been invited to give a message of solidarity from the trade union movement. 

Her's a link to my speech:

In the intervening years, the horrific truth of the massacre of tens of thousands of Tamils - and the mass detention of hundreds more - has finally begun to be admitted by the United Nations and others who stood silent when those atrocities were taking place in 2009.

There may well be politicians who will also be speaking on the platform tonight who will promise support to the Tamil community but big business backed parties will never be a reliable support to any oppressed people. These parties are part of the same British establishment who has invited Sri Lanka's despotic president Rajapaksa to the Queen's Jubilee celebrations! (see the Tamil Solidarity site for more information on the protest against Rajapaksa's visit)

The trade union movement, fighting for the united struggle of working people against poverty and oppression, is a key force that can make sure that the struggle of Tamil speaking peoples receives the support and publicity it deserves. The united May Day demonstrations across Tamil and Sinhala communities in Sri Lanka this year are an important step forward. (see

In particular, the trade union movement should give its backing to the demand for a independent international inquiry into all war crimes allegations, for the withdrawal of the troops from the North and East of Sri Lanka, and for an end to the settlement programme - in reality an occupation programme - in those areas.

NUT members need to make sure that the issue of Tamil Solidarity is taken up within the Union as widely as possible, building on the example of Bury NUT who recently invited a speaker from the campaign to speak at their general meeting. 

Academies battles - support Downhills strike on Tuesday

Here are some important updates from the Anti-Academies Alliance:

Downhills family picnic and fun day to support teachers’ strike on May 22

Save Downhills School
“The NUT have balloted teachers at Downhills and they have unanimously voted to take sustained and discontinuous strike action in relation to the proposed transfer of staff employment. Unison members at the school are also being balloted around taking action. The NUT are now taking their first strike day on Tuesday 22nd May, and the school will be closed as a result of that action. The Save Downhills Campaign fully support our teachers and are planning to hold an event in the local park for all of our teachers, parents and children as well as community supporters.”

Please rush messages of support to the strike:
Haringey NUT –
Phil Brett NUT rep at Downhills -

Downhills teachers to strike against forced academy
Teachers gear up to strike against forced academies

Kingsthorpe College teachers to strike against academy proposal

NUT members at Kingsthorpe College,Northampton will be striking on Wednesday 23rd May against the proposal to transfer their employment to the Collaborative Academies Trust, the ‘non profit’ arm of Edison Learning. 

Messages of support to the NUT Rep at Kingsthorpe College
Kingsthorpe College teachers to strike against academy proposal

Birmingham resists forced academies

The ballot of NASUWT and NUT members in 15 primary schools in Birmingham, all threatened with being forced to become academies, is on-going.
Read the NUT press release and NASUWT press release.
We have produced a Birmingham Anti Academies Alliance newspaper – “Save Birmingham Schools, No to Forced Academies” which is being distributed to parents and staff at the schools Gove is targetting.

Wednesday 16 May 2012

Zonal Pay, Performance Pay: an excuse to CUT Pay

The latest attack on teachers from this Millionaires' Government came with the release of Michael Gove’s proposals for changes to the national pay arrangements for teachers.

Blatantly fiddling with the actual evidence, this report threatens every teacher with performance pay that might take away any automatic right of progression up the pay scale - even for those on the main scale. 

It also threatens a complete break-up of national pay arrangements, so as to be able to axe education spending, atomise pay arrangements, and cut teacher salaries.

The link between performance pay and the new Appraisal Regulations and Teachers’ Standards are spelt out, with Gove saying that they "will provide a better framework for schools to make decisions about rewarding teacher performance".

Just to show how farcical the proposals are, a table (5D) in the 'evidence' lists teachers in my borough of Lewisham as being 'overpaid' - as the ratio of 'teacher to professional pay' is 1.17 - whereas, if we take a short train ride to work in Tower Hamlets, we would then be 'underpaid' with the respective ratio being 0.73! Of course, this just means that there are few big employers in Lewisham but some well-paid bankers in Canary Wharf.

There's no logic to this system - but then Gove and the Con-Dems don't rely on logic - they just want an excuse to slash spending and attack trade unionists' pay and conditions. 

We need to urgently prepare action to oppose these threats - on top of the attacks already being made to our pensions.

The documents can be found on:

The National NUT Press Release is appended below:

Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers' union, said:

“Michael Gove’s latest proposals on pay fly in the face of evidence. Yesterday's OECD report showed that performance pay in schools does not raise standards.  Last week's Sutton Trust survey showed exactly the opposite of what both the Sutton Trust and the Education Secretary claim.

“What the survey actually showed was the majority of teachers support the current pay arrangements whereby teachers on the main pay scale get a pay increase unless their performance is deemed unsatisfactory. If this is the standard of evidence that Michael Gove is basing his arguments on then it is woeful to say the least. 

“National pay scales for teachers give a transparency and ensure much greater fairness and non-discrimination than pay levels determined at school level, and should remain.  

“Education is a nationally-delivered service so local pay for a teacher is completely inappropriate.  It would reduce teacher mobility, create shortages in areas of lower pay, hit recruitment and retention, and create needless extra expense and bureaucracy for schools.  The most disadvantaged parts of the country would be hit by a double whammy of Government cuts and lower pay. 

“Teachers are already suffering from pay freezes, job losses and increases in pension contributions – they now face pay cuts due to a policy based on ideology not evidence. Like so many of Michael Gove's ideas, these proposals will demotivate teachers, damage team working in schools and worsen recruitment and retention problems – the very opposite of what is needed”. 

Tuesday 15 May 2012

Greek elections - unite for a left majority to defeat austerity

The failure of the pro-austerity parties to cobble together a new cuts Government in Greece - forcing new elections - opens up the prospect of a further surge in support for SYRIZA and other Left forces in Greece. With a bold campaign - and an appeal from SYRIZA to the ranks of the KKE, Antarsya and other Left forces, a majority Left Government could be elected. 

If it embarked on a bold socialist programme, linking up with workers in the other countries threatened with crippling austerity measures and expulsion from the Euro, an international movement against cuts and capitalist extortion could gain massive support.

But SYRIZA's leadership needs to prepare its supporters for the ferocious attacks that will be made by the media and the markets - both during the election campaign and after any victory for the Left.

As developments in Greece are being followed by so many teachers and trade unionists around the world, I am reposting this article which has just been posted on from my socialist friends in 'Xekinima' :

Following the 6 May election earthquake in Greece, which saw a hammering of the pro-austerity parties and a huge rejection of the ‘Troika’ (IMF, ECB and EU), the main parties failed to form a coalition government. Attempts by the Greek president to oversee a ‘national unity’ government or to form a “government of technocrats” also failed. Crucial new elections will be held no later than 17 June.

The supporters of Xekinima (CWI in Greece) strongly supported the decision by the left-wing party Syriza to refuse to join any government with pro-austerity parties, such as Pasok, the traditional social democratic party, and the right wing New Democracy. 

Syriza (Coalition of the Radical Left) leapt from 4.6% to 16.78% (52 seats), to become the second largest party in the last elections, largely on the basis of its anti-cuts policies and call for a united left government.

Over the last week, the main political parties desperately tried to find a way to avoid new elections. The Greek ruling class is disorientated. Their traditional political tools of support, New Democracy and Pasok, saw their vote dramatically fall.

This was the result of years of their austerity measures that led to mass poverty and homelessness, a steep fall in living standards and rising suicides. By the end of 2012, GDP (total output) is predicted to contract by 20% (since 2008) and unemployment to rise by 25%.

Leaders of New Democracy and Pasok, and most of the media, hypocritically blame Syriza for making the country return to elections. But Syriza’s leader, Alexis Tsipras, correctly rejected their arguments, saying the political establishment wanted Syriza to become their “partner in crime” in making new cuts.

The aversion of the main party leaders to democratic elections is mainly because Syriza is tipped to become the largest party, according to opinion polls, winning anywhere between 20.5% to 28%. Syriza is the only party growing in the polls, while others are falling. New Democracy is projected to win 18.1% of a new vote and Pasok 12.2%, their lowest ratings in nearly 40 years. This reflects the huge popularity of Syriza’s public opposition to yet more austerity cuts.

The neo-fascist Golden Dawn scored big successes in last week’s elections and entered parliament for the first time. But many of those who voted for Golden Dawn to “punish the politicians” now see the real far right, anti-working class character of the party.

Golden Dawn has subsequently dropped in polls, to just above 3% in some cases, which would see the party fail to win any MPs in new elections.

Nevertheless, the working class cannot be complacent about the threat of the far right and reaction. Since winning parliamentary seats, Golden Dawn supporters have viciously attacked immigrants.

Xekhinima calls for the creation of local anti-fascist committees to include democratically-organised defence, and extended to communities, schools, universities and workplaces. If the left fails to offer a viable socialist alternative, the far right can make new gains and the Greek ruling class, which previously resorted to military rule, will also seek to deploy more authoritarian measures against the workers’ movement.

The bosses’ parties threaten that Greece will be forced to leave the eurozone if new elections are called and Syriza comes to power with its anti-austerity policies. Syriza leaders say they want to take measures to end cuts and to improve living standards and that Greece should stay in the eurozone.

While the vast majority of Greeks vociferously oppose the austerity programme they also want to remain in the eurozone. They understandably fear the aftermath of exiting the common currency.

There are endless warnings from the media and cuts-making politicians about what leaving would entail: a dramatic fall in living standards, financial bankruptcy and hyperinflation. Not surprisingly, one recent opinion poll recorded 78% of respondents said they wanted a new government to do whatever it took to keep the euro. At the same time, however, to stay in the euro straitjacket promises only endless austerity for Greeks and an increasing number of them are demanding to leave.

Notwithstanding the aim of Syriza leaders to stay in the eurozone, even if they follow their current policies in a new government, limited as they are to a ‘radical’ renegotiation of the bail-out terms, they will face stiff opposition from the EU and Greek capitalists, most likely leading to Greece’s exit from the euro.

The Troika has indicated that it is prepared to reconsider aspects of the bail-out terms but not the ‘core’ issues, which means new assaults on the living conditions of Greek people.
Yet Syriza is not preparing its own supporters and the working class generally for the consequences of confrontation with the Troika, the markets and the Greek ruling class or taking account of a likely ferocious media and bosses’ parties scare campaign that will be unleashed against Syriza during the new election campaign.

Some Syriza leaders argue that when they form a new government, the Troika’s bluff will be called and they forced to back down and make big concessions. They point out that the EU leaders are terrified of a Greek default and exit from the euro. This would cause a new financial crisis and deep recession throughout the EU, with countries like Spain, Portugal and Ireland also possibly forced out of the euro.

While this is true, events have their own momentum. Some EU leaders and markets fear Greece is on an irresistible slide towards exit from the euro and financial markets are making preparations for this eventuality.

Angela Merkel and EU president Jose Manuel Barroso openly stated that if Athens cannot abide by the bailout rules, Greece will have to leave. This may partly be a threat to force Greece to form a coalition government to continue with cuts, as well as an attempt to show what will happen to any eurozone country that dares to stand up to the Troika.

For a Left government!

In this situation, what should the Greek Left do? Xekinima welcomes Syriza’s public call for left unity. Syriza should open up and develop its structures as a broad left alliance, so that fresh layers of workers and youth can join and decide party policy democratically. Xekinima supports united action of the left parties ahead of the next elections and for working people to vote for Syriza.

Syriza should make a call for a resurgence of mass action in the workplaces, colleges and communities and for combative, democratic union organisation. This should be done concretely, with the convening of mass assemblies at local, regional and national levels to discuss and agree programme, demands and electoral tactics, to campaign for a left government and to strive to ensure that such a government pursues anti-austerity and pro-worker policies.

The communist party (KKE) and Antarsya (the Anti-capitalist Left Cooperation) both took a sectarian attitude before the last elections and rejected Syriza’s ‘left unity’ proposal, with the result that their votes remain stagnant. To the amazement of many millions of workers, the KKE leadership still continues to refuse to form a block with Syriza.

But under growing pressure from their rank and file, and the working class, in general, a section of Antarsya has indicated that it is prepared to have joint collaboration with Syriza.

Many KKE members also speak of the need to “make unity with Syriza”. Xekinima urges Syriza to make a bold call to the rank and file of the KKE and other left forces to join in an electoral bloc on an anti-austerity platform and to fight for a majority left government with a socialist programme.

Xekinima will campaign for a government of the Left and call for it to carry out anti-austerity, pro-worker policies and to adopt a socialist programme to transform society.

A programme for united action by Syriza and the KKE around opposition to all austerity measures, for cancellation of the debt, public ownership of the main banks and industries and for socialist change, would win widespread support from the working class, youth and middle class.

Pro-worker policies would predictably cause screams of outrage from the bosses in Greece and the EU. They would probably quickly kick Greece out of the eurozone.

Ejected from the euro, a workers’ government would need to carry out an emergency programme, including state control over imports and exports and capital controls to stop the “flight of capital” by profit-hungry property-holders and multinationals. Democratic committees should oversee the supply of foodstuffs, medicine, oil and other vital goods to working people.

A workers’ government in Greece would link up with the workers’ movement in other crisis ridden euro-zone countries, like Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Italy, to break the diktat of the Troika, the bosses’ EU and capitalism.

These countries could form a confederation on a socialist basis and begin the international democratic planning and co-ordination of the economy, as part of a fight for a full socialist confederation of Europe, on a free and equal basis. This would win massive support quickly across the working class of Europe.