Thursday 21 March 2013

PRP – A battle we have to win

A report from today's NUT National Executive

Today’s NUT National Executive put forward a Priority Motion to be debated at NUT Annual Conference on Saturday March 30 endorsing the joint plan of action announced earlier this week with the NASUWT.

That motion will now be circulated to Conference delegates but will be open to amendment in the debate. While much of the motion will receive unanimous support, I have made clear to Executive colleagues that I do think the action program needs strengthening. As Convenor of LANAC, I have today written to Associations inviting delegates to a fringe meeting to discuss what additions might be proposed.

As the Priority Motion correctly explains, Gove’s attack on our pay will, if not defeated, result in salaries being set school-by-school with profoundly discriminatory consequences. It will undermine teacher recruitment, retention and morale, damaging children’s education.

Yesterday’s Budget also made absolutely clear that Osborne wants to make ‘substantial savings’ by attacking our pay progression. He wants to make teachers, and other public sector workers, pay for a crisis that Osborne and his banking cronies were responsible for.

Regrettably, our delay in calling action may yet have encouraged Gove to go further. In mid-April, before we’ve taken action, the new Pay and Conditions Document will be published. The Union expects that this will confirm that the main blocks on pay progression won’t start until 2014 – but there’s still a chance that this could be imposed from 2013. We will also have to wait until later in the term to see if Gove will recommend that the 1% uplift for September 2013 applies to all teachers – or just a few.

As Osborne intends, budget cuts will be used to bully schools into blocking pay progression. Discussion at the Executive confirmed that Government funding for school budgets has been frozen – while inflation rises. Schools will also soon have to meet the cost of extra National Insurance contributions. If the cash isn’t there, schools will use performance-pay to make savings.

Schools won’t just be bullied by budgets. Ofsted is already putting them under pressure to follow Gove’s dictats. It was reported that an Oxfordshire school had just been found to be wanting by Ofsted for having passed the NUT/NASUWT recommended appraisal policy!

We have to make sure that our action program is strong enough to counteract that bullying and make sure that schools adopt pay policies next term that protect teachers from pay cuts. Of course, to really defend teachers and education, it needs to be strong enough to force PRP to be withdrawn.

The first battles next term are going to be to over those pay policies. An important strengthening amendment to the Priority Motion was agreed from the floor of the Executive making clear that we won’t just be fighting school-by-school but must also be prepared to take action across Academy Chains and Local Authorities if necessary. There will also be funds available to support sustained strike action to support these local battles.

Those local battles can make gains in well-organised schools groups and Local Associations but even the best-organised Association will struggle to have the capacity to monitor and support members across all the individual schools in their area. The best way to show united opposition – to both employers and to Ministers – is to build a firm national programme of strike action.

The pay rallies planned for April and May need to be built into substantial events ready to build substantial action. The program for action needs to be publicised. The NUT has stated that members in ALL areas will take part in a day’s regional strike action before Autumn half-term, followed by a national strike before Christmas. We also need to be producing materials for parents and teachers explaining why we are taking this action to defend education against Gove’s cuts and privatisation.

This is a welcome start but, in my opinion, it’s still not as bold as it needs to be to respond to the scale of threats that we face. That’s why the LANAC meeting (now on Friday March 29 at 6.15 pm) will be debating ways in which the existing recommendations can be strengthened:

• Should the programme of action start with a unifying national strike instead of regional action?

• Should action begin earlier in the summer term than June 27th?

• Can we also co-ordinate with other unions calling for joint action against Osborne’s cuts, like PCS?

Of course, the danger will be raised that such proposals risk jeopardising the agreement made with the NASUWT. But why should additional actions being taken by the NUT to strengthen the campaign cause the NASUWT to withdraw from the jointly agreed action? In particular, given the threats made across the public sector in yesterday’s Budget, wouldn’t it be best to escalate the proposed June action into a national strike rather than a regional one, and co-ordinate with other unions opposing pay and pension cuts like the PCS – and call on the NASUWT to join that national action as well?

NUT Conference will continue the debate over the Easter weekend.

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