The May 10 strike by up to half a million public sector trade unionists has given renewed momentum to the pensions campaign and sent a clear message to Ministers that our struggle is far from over.
Unfortunately, that same afternoon, a majority of the NUT Executive voted not to call a national strike in June - despite the policy agreed by NUT Conference.
What was agreed by the Executive was that the NUT will soon hold a further national ballot to allow NUT members to take strike and non-strike action on issues wider than pensions, such as the threats to introduce local pay and to mount further attacks on our working conditions. That action would hopefully be alongside the other main teaching union, the NASUWT.
Teachers will welcome the prospect of joint action on workload, but many will rightly question why joint NUT strike action with the PCS & others, building on May 10 - not to mention Conference policy - was set aside.
The NUT Executive’s regrettable decision means that there will be no national strike action from teachers until after the holidays.
For now, efforts will need to be concentrated on winning that new ballot - so that NUT members can indeed take action over a range of issues from September, hopefully united with the NASUWT.
But teachers can’t let the NASUWT leadership dictate the pace of events. Firstly, the ‘non-strike action’ has got to be a lot sharper than the existing NASUWT workload campaign which has been largely invisible.
Above all, we can’t let that non-strike action be used as an excuse to hold back from using our strongest and clearest weapon - national strike action - for many months more.
Firm non-strike action can play a useful role in protecting teachers from some of the worst excesses of stress and workload but it won’t catch the headlines or put the Government under pressure in the way that joint national action can. With election defeats adding to their woes, this Coalition is susceptible to pressure. It’s time we turned the tables and put them under a bit more stress!
Indecision and further delay would be the worst possible policy. Putting off further national action to perhaps November would mean a gap of 12 months since the last national strike. We can’t afford to delay that long !
There are two events being organised in June that give classroom teachers the opportunity to make their views known - and to organise to build for the urgent action we need.
On June 9, the Annual Conference of the National Shop Stewards Network is being held in London - this year in a bigger venue - to bring together workplace union reps from across the public and private sector. The NSSN Conference will discuss how to build united action against austerity and pension cuts - hearing about the movement in France and Greece, but above all, in Britain.
Kevin Courtney, NUT DGS is one of the speakers - alongside Mark Serwotka of the PCS - so that we can hear from them and debate the way forward for the movement.
Best of all, teachers should try and get to Liverpool on June 16 for the Local Associations National Action Conference. This event, built from meetings of delegates at Easter’s NUT Conference who were worried about the lack of clear direction for the pensions campaign, is our chance to plan how we are going to make sure teacher unions maintain the momentum of the pensions campaign - and escalate and extend our action to cover other issues too. Conference delegates need to be elected by their Local Association - but visitors will be welcome too.
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