Sunday 19 May 2013

LANAC Committee builds for the action we need to defeat Gove's attacks

LANAC’s Steering Committee meeting in Birmingham on Saturday 18 May marked another step forward in the development of the Local Associations National Action Campaign. The meeting brought together teacher trade unionists from Hull to Plymouth, Liverpool to Lewes, to share experience and discuss proposals as to how to successfully build collective action to defeat the escalating attacks on teachers and education.

LANAC’s agreed democratic structures give every affiliated NUT Association a vote. On Saturday, there were 26 delegates present, along with observers from three further NUT Associations. Those structures provide reassurance to Associations that LANAC’s decisions are properly based on the views of those affiliated. However, LANAC meetings are open to school reps and observers from non-affiliated Associations, and there were 40 people present altogether at the meeting. Affiliations had come in from a number of new Associations in the last few weeks, such as Redbridge, Stockport, Rotherham, Harlow and Bolton.

The first session, on “Building for June 27 and beyond”, heard reports from the North-West, where regional strike action will be taking place in June, but also from many other regions as well. Plans and suggestions made included:

·        Building for the calendar of regional and national action that has been outlined, recognising both the enthusiasm of the teachers turning out to rallies and local meetings, some for the first time, but also the doubts and frustration of some reps and members who understandably question how serious the NUT and NASUWT leaderships are in building a programme of action that is strong enough to defeat Gove’s attacks.

·        Continuing to push for the ongoing plan of strike action to be confirmed and publicised.

·        Building links locally with NASUWT members so they also put pressure on their union to maintain the battle after June 27 and beyond.

·        Confirming twinning arrangements between Associations in the North-West and other regions to send messages of support, perhaps delegations on the day, and to make direct twinning links between schools.

·        Calling LANAC meetings to follow the strike rallies on June 27 to allow teachers to discuss the next steps in the campaign.

·        Campaign work in other areas including public leafleting and local demos on June 25/26/27.

·        Linking the battle over pay to the linked attacks on pensions and conditions, making clear to teachers and parents that this is part of a wider battle to defend education as a public service.

A second short session, on the campaign to win acceptable pay policies, followed. During the discussion, encouraging news came from the nearby NAHT Conference of the Heads’ vote of no confidence in Gove. However, this was tempered by the knowledge that the NAHT pay policy accepted some of the worst aspects of Gove’s performance-pay proposals! Nevertheless, along with the clear divisions within the Government, it was another sign of the weakness of the Coalition and why, with a clear and determined plan of action, we could reverse these attacks.

There were some positive reports – for example from Leicester – where Local Authorities seemed willing to recommend policies that broadly protect existing pay progression and ‘portability’ arrangements. However, other Authorities were clearly planning to push ahead with DfE recommendations. The meeting agreed that we needed to make sure that Associations weren’t left to just organise isolated school-by-school battles which would be totally insufficient to defend the majority of teachers.  We needed to collectivise and co-ordinate disputes as much as possible. Suggestions included:

·        Writing jointly to Heads, Governors and Councillors to explain the dangers of PRP (an example of a letter from Lewisham ATL/NASUWT/NUT was circulated).

·        Proposing rolling strikes in schools who have adopted unacceptable pay policies so that, each week, schools are on strike across an Authority, to persuade the LA to step-in and recommend acceptable pay policies to be adopted by schools.

·        Warning Heads that school groups would request strike action if any one of their colleagues were denied pay progression

·        In line with advice issued by PCS on performance management to its HMRC members, calling on members to refuse to agree unacceptable numerical targets and to use appeal and grievance policies as part of building up a campaign of opposition.

·        Call on unions to pursue further the legalities of a dispute about the role of OfSTED given their clearly political role in monitoring PRP implementation and in bullying Heads and schools to comply.

·        Circulate model LANAC materials to all NUT Associations on these issues.

The third session, on building LANAC, reflected on the influence we have already built over the last year and reached a number of conclusions:
·    the next LANAC Steering Committee will be held in September, acting as an AGM to elect LANAC Officers last elected in September 2012, and a Conference in December to review the progress of the joint NUT/NASUWT campaign following the national strike action which should be taking place in November. 
·        LANAC will have its own office at the Premier Inn in Brighton for the 2014 NUT Conference and a block booking of 50 rooms, most of which have now been allocated to Associations (to confirm). 
·        We confirmed the existing voting arrangements (outlined above) although discussion could, of course, continue and any association could propose alternative arrangements in future. 
·        LANAC should produce a further newsletter, certainly to intervene around June 27th actions.

The final session discussed the elections taking place in the NUT in 2013/14. Events since LANAC had been set-up at 2012 Conference had confirmed that, the divisions over action policy seen at that Conference (and indeed in 2011), and in debates on the NUT National Executive, had continued.  2013 Conference had made clear that LANAC represented a definite trend of opinion within the NUT over calling national action. While we had narrowly lost the vote on our amendment, we had received substantial support. If we were to give voice to those views, and an opportunity for teachers to vote for them, LANAC needed to support candidates in these elections. These proposals made were:
. On the 2014 NUT National Executive elections, LANAC-supporting Associations should work together to support the re-election of those candidates seeking re-election to the NEC. 
. We would not oppose other sitting members of the ‘Left Caucus’ seeking re-election
. We would seek to strengthen the support for candidates supporting LANAC in areas where either there were vacant seats and/or seats where we could seek to challenge ‘Broadly Speaking’ members and that we should discuss locally to seek agreement on candidates and campaigns.
. LANAC should support a candidate for Vice-President and call on Local Associations to nominate that candidate.  This would, firstly, help increase the pressure next term to ensure that the calendar of action was maintained and extended. A VP supporting LANAC would also ensure that LANAC continued to have a voice in the discussions that take place on the NUT National Officer’s body. We would also be able to clearly back a candidate who had argued, and voted, for national action at Conference which may not otherwise be standing.

The points on the NEC election were generally accepted. A suggestion was made that, if possible, all candidates supporting LANAC should try and include a minimal set of demands common to all. 

However, some observers and delegates argued that it would be wrong for LANAC to call on Associations to back a VP candidate when LANAC only stood for a limited program that did not extend to wider educational issues. However, others pointed out that it was precisely our program of consistently supporting national action to defend pay, pensions, conditions – and education as a whole – that distinguished LANAC from other trends within the Union. 

There was also an argument that the decision should be postponed until a later meeting but it was pointed out that, the issue had been highlighted on the agenda in advance and, in practice, postponing a decision effectively meant deciding not to back a candidate for VP, given the timescale for seeking nominations – which had to take place this term or, by the latest, by the end of September. While Local Associations had to make their own democratic decisions about nominations, the decision of the delegate-based LANAC meeting also gave genuine backing to any candidate endorsed by the Steering Committee.

A vote was taken:

a)      For LANAC to support a candidate for Vice-President. This was agreed by 17 votes to 6.

b)      To support Martin Powell-Davies, the LANAC Convenor (and the only name proposed by the meeting) as that candidate. This was agreed by 18 votes to 7. 

LANAC will publicise all the points above in order to build collective action, strengthen the campaign to win local battles over pay policies, build the strongest possible response to the regional strikes on June 27, September and October, and to keep up the pressure for national strike action to be called in November – and beyond.

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