Tuesday 12 November 2013

Gove will continue his attacks and provocations unless unions escalate action

Yesterday's joint NUT and NASUWT Press Release issued "in response to the letter from the Secretary of State for Education published on 6 November 2013" reaffirmed the unions' "commitment to a jointly coordinated campaign to Protect Teachers and Defend Education".

The Press Release expresses disappointment "that the Secretary of State, rather than seeking genuinely to engage in talks to seek to resolve our disputes has, in his letter of 6 November, resorted to provocation" and that "these trade disputes are only capable of resolution by agreement between the Secretary of State as a Minister of the Crown and the NASUWT and the NUT".

It's correct to describe Gove's letter as a 'provocation' (see text of letter in the posts below). It restates Gove's previous intransigent stance that talks can only be about "implementation" of his plans. It then went further in stating that the NASUWT and NUT would not be meeting separately with Gove to seek to resolve our dispute but that we would be outnumbered in talks by other organisations including Voice and EDAPT who certainly cannot be relied on to oppose Gove's attacks on pay, pensions and workload.

The problem is that the Secretary of State's response should have come as no surprise. Gove has been consistent in his rejection of genuine talks. He has been emboldened by seeing the NUT and NASUWT backing down from their previous commitment to national strike action in November. In response to Gove's provocation, that day of action needs to be reinstated as soon as possible.

Teachers were told that their unions suspended that planned day of national strike action because, in the words of the NUT's latest Teacher magazine, "our successful and determined action has wrung from Education Secretary Michael Gove an offer of talks". However, no genuine talks were being proposed by Gove - then or now. 

The NUT / NASUWT Press Release confirms "that plans remain in place for a national strike in England and Wales no later than 13 February 2014 in the event of insufficient progress through negotiation". That's welcome - however, that doesn't go far enough. A date for a national strike needs to be confirmed as soon as possible - along with a plan for further escalating action after that. 

What 'negotiations' are on offer and what 'progress' can unions expect to make - unless Gove knows that we are committed to a continuing and escalating calendar of strike action?

Unfortunately, the plan agreed by the NUT National Executive at our 25 October meeting doesn't commit unions to such a plan of action. The agreed recommendation setting out our action plans following a possible national strike only called for "a further programme of rolling regional action" to be drawn up.

Part of the objection tabled in my name at that meeting, supported by a minority of ten members of the Executive, sought to strengthen our commitment to "a further escalating programme of national and rolling regional action [be drawn up], in co-ordination with the NASUWT and other unions, including consideration of a two-day national strike".

My objection also set out "the need to make clear to the Secretary of State that we are maintaining our escalating pattern of strike action until he withdraws his threats to pay, pensions and conditions, threats which have such serious consequences for teachers and for education".

In the light of Gove's provocative rejection of any genuine talks, such a plan for escalating action is now urgently needed.

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