Sunday 20 October 2013

Look out for news on a national strike in November

The determined response to last week’s regional strike action again showed the depth of anger against Gove’s attacks on teachers and education.

My Vice-President campaign leaflet calling for the unions to now “Strike Together in November” certainly seemed to strike a chord. Thousands of leaflets were distributed – a well-timed intervention ahead of the ballot papers going out to home addresses from October 30.

Neither NUT nor NASUWT members want to find that the three solid regional strikes were just more days of protest after which the National Unions hesitate again. Teachers attending those vibrant rallies are expecting the NUT and NASUWT to now carry out their promise to call a united one-day national strike before Christmas. In the next week, we will find out whether they are going to hold their nerve, or delay again.

On Monday 21st, the NUT and NASUWT national negotiators are meeting to decide their next move. There are conflicting signals about what will be agreed. The fact that an emergency NUT Executive is being convened for Friday 25th may not be a good sign. If calling the national strike was a formality, this Executive meeting would not have been needed. However, some Executive members (in both Unions) have been discussing whether it might be best to 'preserve unity' and postpone the national action until the New Year in the hope that Gove will offer ‘talks’. Against that, the NUT negotiating team are certainly wanting the national strike to be confirmed. Chris Keates, the NASUWT General Secretary, was also reported in the press on Friday saying that the NASUWT were still preparing for the national strike this term as well. Hopefully, the response on October 17th will have answered any doubts.

Any delay would be a serious mistake. It would be a signal to teachers and Ministers alike that the teaching unions lack confidence and are backing away from their announced plan of action. There is no need to lack confidence. The energy and anger at all the rallies on Thursday showed the support that will be there from teachers for a clear plan of continuing strike action. Yes, as I said in my campaign leaflet, we will need to work hard to bring every school out, explaining our case to teachers and parents, and collecting for hardship funds so that every teacher feels that they can join the action. We should also warn Gove that we are preparing for further action in 2014, stepping up to a two-day strike if Gove refuses to back down from his attacks.

Hopefully, a date for joint national strike action this term will be agreed. If not, I hope that the NUT Executive still agrees to maintain our national strike at the end of November. A postponement to some unconfirmed date would only disorientate our members and invite Gove to carry out his attacks on conditions when he announces his response to the Review Body’s report on changes to national conditions in the New Year. We need not be striking alone. We can co-ordinate our action with other unions like the CWU, FBU, UCU and PCS – while pushing from below in schools for united action alongside the NASUWT again in the New Year.

Look out for news that may emerge from the negotiating meeting this week and make sure your NUT Executive member knows what you feel before Friday’s meeting of the NUT National Executive.

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