Monday 17 December 2012

Gove has declared 'war' - time to repel his attack on education!

Last week, the NUT National Executive met to respond to the declaration of 'war' on teachers by Michael Gove and the Review Body following their threats to link teachers' pay entirely to performance. 

Regrettably, the NUT Executive has not yet  shown the boldness and determination required in the face of such a serious attack. Instead, as a Union we have perhaps been rightly criticised for showing once again what one columnist has called " tactical conservatism".

NUT members have all been sent an email rightly explaining that already "NUT members have told us how strongly they oppose Michael Gove's plans. An immediate NUT survey of 10,000 members showed that well over 90 percent reject Mr Gove's plans for pay determination at school level".

That strength of feeling - backed up by the many angry comments I have received from teachers and posted elsewhere on this blog - - just wasn't matched by the same strength of resolve at the Executive. The email simply goes on to say that "NUT members may have to go further in demonstrating their opposition to this Government's plans ... and should prepare for possible strike action next term". A far bolder 'call-to-arms' needs to be made.

A national NUT circular issued today spells out exactly what was - and wasn't - agreed at the Executive meeting. I have pasted the various points in full below.

As I said in the debate at the Executive, those of us calling for a calendar of strike action have also always been strong supporters of the Union going out to members - and the wider community - to explain our case and build support. So the recommendations made by the NUT National Officers about a 'community-facing campaign for education' were not an issue.

However, we know that it will be the strength of union action that will be the decisive factor in defeating Gove's 'war' on teachers. It was only our 'objection' which sought to commit the union to commencing action with the urgency that these attacks require.

The defeat of that objection was a setback - but means that there is now an even greater urgency to go out to schools and to explain to members how the Review Body proposals threaten the pay and conditions of every teacher. It also means that there is an even greater need for NUT and NASUWT members to make their voices heard and give confidence to their national leaderships to call national strike action.

As I posted in my original report , there are bound to be differences over strategy when deciding under pressure how best to force back your opponent.

However, for some who opposed our objection, this debate was not just about the timing of the start of action. I fear that the final recommendation 3, "to develop new action instructions in combination with NASUWT relating to school pay policies" reveals the real, and dangerously defeatist, thinking of some on the Executive.

Limiting our strategy to perhaps just a token protest strike followed by an attempt to plead with schools to ignore Gove's new pay flexibilities would be fatal. Bullied by Ofsted and budget cuts, even the best of schools will be under pressure to limit pay progression for their staff. Many will seize on the chance to cut pay and ratchet up the pressure on staff even more. It is a strategy that will see the Union drowning in pay appeals, grievances and individual casework. Instead, we need to channel the rising anger and bitterness that teachers already feel about the way they are being treated into collective national action.

The defeat of the proposal to look at strike action in the first half-term means that valuable time has already been lost in organising the action we need. I am confident that this action can - and must - still be built - but only if we also go on a ‘war footing’.

Every Local NUT Association needs to get to work as soon as they can. In my Association, Lewisham, I have convened an emergency Committee meeting at the beginning of next term - with a wider invitation to school reps to come along too.

We'll be looking to draft in support to run the office and support with casework so that we can put together a programme of visits to schools and calls to reps. We'll be explaining how bad Gove's proposals will be for teachers and education - but also asking members to send in demands to the National Union for national strike action to be called as well. The proposals include calling a Lobby of the NUT Executive, after work on Wednesday 23rd January at 5pm.

Lewisham NUT will also be attending the next LANAC Steering Committee, 11am - 3pm, on Saturday 19th January 2013, at the Coventry Transport Museum CV1 1JD, to discuss how we can build that pressure on executive members in every Region.
PLEASE NOTE, as a London NUT Reps Briefing has now been called for that date,  LANAC Officers are liaising about whether arrangements will be altered - look out for further details.
Here is the record of the votes recorded in today's NUT circular:

A division was called during the debate on the Urgency report from the Officers’ meeting, held earlier on 13 December 2012. The report contained the Union’s response to the Government’s acceptance of the STRB recommendations.

The recommendations set out in the report were as follows:

Building a community-facing campaign for education:

1. Continuing to build the petition and gathering further sponsoring organisations (such as NGA) and to examine possibilities for high profile national meetings.
2. Parents meetings in schools over Ebacc demanding real consultation - in at least each region. With publicity plans and the possibilities of further meetings in more towns and cities.
3. Meetings on education - using the models of the Yorkshire Education Conference and the Lambeth primary conference. Again aiming to have these in each region - focusing either on school improvement/evidence on academies or on ‘trusting teachers’.
4. Examine similar possibilities for alliance working on school accountability including OFSTED and ESTYN, phonics and curriculum review.
5. Produce leaflets for use in building community campaigns on education.
6. Condemn and campaign against the impact of cuts to education services and associated services including for example the early intervention grant.

Building the campaign and joint union activity around pay

1. GS/DGS to give a series of national reps briefings. 

2. GS/DGs to run a series of regional rallies - putting forward the case against Government education policy and for industrial action.
3. Develop new action instructions in combination with NASUWT relating to school pay policies.
4. Encourage school groups to hold protests outside school gates and seeking local press coverage.
5. Seek media attention for stories about teacher morale and resignations.
6. Produce material for members around the pay freeze, the increased pension contributions and limitations on teacher pay progression.
7. Conduct surveys amongst early career members about the impact on their household budgets of the above.
8. Approach the NASUWT nationally early in January about the necessity for strike action in the Spring Term.
9. Build towards strike action in the Spring Term over both pay and pensions issues.

An objection to the report in the name of Martin Powell-Davies and Heather McKenzie was received as follows:

Replace existing points 8 and 9 with:
8. Instruct our negotiating team to urgently approach the NASUWT to seek their agreement for both unions to give notice for a first day of strike action to take place no later than the first week of February 2013.
9. Call a special meeting of the Executive on January 10 2013 to agree on the date that would be called for a first day of national strike action and to consider further dates that could form part of our calendar of action.

The vote was recorded as follows:

For: Marilyn Bater, Roy Bowser, Nick Grant, Dave Harvey, Mandy Hudson, Roger King, Ian Leaver, Anne Lemon, Julie Lyon-Taylor, Heather McKenzie, Patrick Murphy, Martin Powell-Davies and Annette Pryce. (13)

Against: Marilyn Harrop, Jay Barry, Dave Brinson, Dominic Byrne, Hazel Danson, Beth Davies, Neil Foden, Jerry Glazier, Linda Goodwin, Ian Grayson, Robin Head, John Holmes, Max Hyde, Angela Jardine, Simon Jones, Clare Jones, Gawain Little, Amanda Martin, Ian Murch, John Pemberthy, Veronica Peppiatt, Eddie Ritson, Ken Rustidge, Alan Rutter, Anne Swift, Tony Tonks, Graham White and Nick Wigmore (28)

Abstentions: Alex Kenny

Absent: Barrie Frost and Betty Joseph.   
The objection was, therefore, LOST.

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