... we have to respond by urgently setting dates for escalating national strike action !
The attack on teachers' pay unleashed by Gove today in his response to the Schoolteachers' Review Body Report is a declaration of war on teachers and teaching unions.
In the face of this attack, there can be no place for hesitation. We have to urgently announce a program of escalating national strike action in defence of teachers' pay - and call on other trade unionists and parents to support us in a battle to defend education from a Government intent on destroying teacher morale and on ruling schools by fear and intimidation.
The main attacks include:
- No automatic annual increase for teachers on the main pay scale. Instead, pay progression would depend on annual appraisal decisions.This leaves mainscale teachers open to the same kind of harsh, arbitrary and discriminatory decisions that have already led to increasing numbers of teachers on the upper pay scale being denied pay increases by bullying managers and cash-strapped schools.
- Spine points on the main pay scale would continue to be published but only 'for reference purposes'. "This would enable schools to award progression increases as they judge appropriate in the circumstances, for example, awarding more or less than a whole point."
dismantling of the upper pay scale so that teachers could be placed
anywhere on an upper pay band with the "amount and timing of any progression [to] be at the school’s discretion". In short, even where pay progression is granted, the increases will be individualised, allowing unscrupulous mangers to divide-and-rule between staff, awarding favourites and punishing those whose faces do not fit.
- Making progression to the upper pay scale dependent on a teacher showing "the potential and commitment to undertake professional duties which make a wider contribution beyond their own classroom" In other words, making progression to the upper spine dependent on a teacher accepting that they will have to take on more responsibilities. The new introduction of 'temporary' TLRs indicates that separate payments for additional responsibilities could soon start to be replaced simply by a expectation that UPS teachers do the work without extra payment.
- Changing the law so that the salary for your spine point would no longer be guaranteed if you moved to a new school. Instead, you could be moved back to the bottom of your pay scale. In other words, Gove wants the 'market' to be used to enforce pay cuts as teachers are forced to compete for posts by offering to be paid less than their colleagues.
- "Overall school budgets will provide some constraint but it will be essential that leadership teams make robust and well-evidenced recommendations and that governing bodies hold head teachers to account for effective use of the pay budget"
- "Ofsted’s new inspection framework should help encourage a clear focus on the relationship between pay progression decisions and quality of teaching in a school. In other words, the pressure on school budgets will force many schools into holding back pay. Even if some favoured individuals are rewarded, it will be at the expense of their colleagues, destroying the morale and staff relationships that are vital for any school to properly function. If schools resist Gove's 'invitation' to atomise pay, Gove will use the threat of Ofsted to bully schools into line.
- On paper, the pay freeze would be replaced with a tiny 1% uplift in the top and bottom of the pay spines in 2013 and 2014. But "schools are free to determine the extent of pay uplifts to teachers within the statutory minima and maxima". In other words, for most teachers, schools can still decide to maintain the pay freeze !
The leaders of the three main teacher unions have rightly reacted angrily:
Mary Bousted of the ATL said: "Michael Gove has shown his total disregard for teachers in pushing through a permanent pay freeze for most of them. Hard-up schools will undoubtedly decide to deny pay rises to teachers, to help balance their budgets now they won't have to implement any pay recommendations".
Chris Keates of the NASUWT said "These proposals place virtually unlimited discretion on teachers' pay in the hands of head teachers at a time when unfairness and discrimination are already rife".
Christine Blower of the NUT said: “This decision comes in the same week as Government figures showing that the number of teachers leaving English state schools rose by almost a fifth in one year. It is children who will suffer when the profession is unable to recruit and retain teachers. All research shows that performance related pay does not motivate people. It will be bad for teachers and bad for children. Individualised pay will lead to unfairness and injustice".
But this united anger needs to be matched with united action.
Correctly, the NUT press release went on to say that:
“Our members will not see this as anything other than a further attack on their pay and conditions. Pay and pensions are at the heart of the current disputes with the Secretary of State. Together with the NASUWT, we represent nine out of ten teachers who will be appalled by these proposals, coming as they do on top of pension contribution increases. We will be meeting with them next week to discuss the way forward.”
Those talks need to result in an immediate decision to call an urgent joint national strike, as the first day in an escalating programme of action. The tactic being successfully used in individual school battles as part of the 'Phase One' action campaign - of announcing a program of escalating strike dates, including two and three day strikes, must now be applied to a national programme of action.
The NUT National Executive meets on Thursday December13. Calls need to urgently come in from school groups calling on the Executive to take that stand.
Calderdale NUT have already circulated the model motion in the box below. This, and similar proposals, will no doubt be discussed at the LANAC Conference in Leicester on Saturday: http://www.nutlan.org.uk/?q=node/239
Backed up by the policy agreed by TUC Congress, teaching unions should also look to co-ordinate strikes with other unions looking to take action next year such as the PCS who have just announced a new national ballot for national action over jobs, pay and pensions.
Michael Gove may have made a major miscalculation. He has assumed that the failure of the NUT and NASUWT to take further national action over pensions means that teachers are not up for a fight. But Gove has misjudged the huge anger and bitterness amongst classroom teachers about the constant denigration of the profession, about the unbearable bullying and workload, about the way Ofsted inspections, exam results and classroom observations are already being used to unfairly judge teachers and schools.
If a clear lead is given and a clear plan of action spelt out, then teachers will respond overwhelmingly to a call to national strike action.