Friday 25 April 2014

Building for this term's action - calling for escalation next term

Building for action next term

The Priority Motion agreed by NUT Conference agreed a number of campaigning steps so that the Union "is increasing pressure on Michael Gove and his Government" over the months ahead. These include:
  • A parliamentary lobby on 10 June 2014, with the aim of securing lobbyists from every constituency across England and Wales.
  • Mobilising for the 21 June 2014 national demonstration in London called by the People's Assembly.
  • Continuing to take the Union's message to the public through street stalls and "Education Question Time" type events.
  • Continuing the Action Short of Strike Action, in conjunction with the NASUWT, possibly with a focus on specified instructions in given weeks and consideration to new action instructions. 
  • Drawing up plans for a national strike in the week beginning June 23rd - "seeking to co-ordinate with other education and public sector unions where possible and showing flexibility to any timescales that they may have".
The final point - about 'flexibility' on strike dates - was agreed in the knowledge that support staff unions were also likely to be balloting their members in a dispute over pay. UNISON have now confirmed that they will be balloting their 600,000 local government and school members for strike action.

I understand that UNISON's ballot period means that it's likely that a date for possible co-ordinated action across school and Local Authority unions would be in July, rather than June. 

LANAC made clear in our leaflet at NUT conference that "LANAC welcomes the fact that other public sector unions like GMB and UNISON look likely to be balloting to take one-day action next term, probably in early July. It makes sense to seek to co-ordinate strike plans, particularly with support staff colleagues".

Calling for escalation next term - and for clear demands

These are all plans that the whole Union will be seeking to implement as strongly as possible. The debate at NUT Conference was largely around the points being argued by myself and others in LANAC: 

Firstly, that we needed to make clear to members, and to Gove, that we have a calendar of further action ready for next term, rather than just appearing to be calling a series of isolated 'protest' actions. Secondly, that we need to be much clearer in the demands we are seeking to mobilise members around.

The final policy agreed acknowledged that we needed to "establish a set of demands on workload and accountability, retirement  age and the restoration of current pay scales" and "formulate a pay claim aimed at restoring the cuts in pay suffered by teachers since 2010". 

It also agreed that the Executive should "consult with members about a series of strikes through the autumn term and into 2015", although there was an added proviso about the need to first use "random, representative surveys" to consult members on the plan. In debate, LANAC supporters pointed out that, while a Union always had to make judgements based on the willingness of the membership to struggle, 'surveys' could risk signalling to members that the Union was uncertain about what should follow next.

These decisions mean that the debate triggered by LANAC's arguments will continue - not least around the General Secretary election in June. However, rather than delay further, LANAC believed that it was the job of Annual Conference to make firm decisions on demands and ongoing action, and to go out and mobilise support for them. 

From debates and discussions among Local Associations, finalised at a packed Conference fringe meeting, LANAC had already arrived at a concrete proposal that I put to Conference as an amendment to the Priority Motion. Although defeated in a card vote, the proposal we made is one that I think should be the starting-point for the ongoing discussions about our demands and ongoing strategy.

So you can put this proposal to your colleagues for discussion, here is the wording of our amendment:

I) Inform the Secretary of State that, unless he is prepared to commit to open negotiations around the demands outlined in (L) below, the Union will be calling a further programme of national strike action in the Autumn Term and beyond.

J) Inform members that the programme of action for the Autumn Term will consist of a week of action before the half-term break and a further week of action in November. In each week, all members covered by the union’s ballot will be called upon to take at least two consecutive days of strike action.

K) Call a Special Conference of the Union before the end of 2014 to consider what progress has been made towards achieving our demands and what further action the Union will call to maximise pressure on the Secretary of State in the months leading up to the 2015 General Election.

L) Publicise the following demands as key objectives for our campaign:
i) End Performance-Related Pay and reinstate national pay scales
ii) A normal pension age of 60 for all teachers
iii) A £2,000 increase on all pay points.
iv) A significant reduction in teachers’ overall working hours.

For further explanation on LANAC's proposal, see my earlier post

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