Sunday 20 April 2014

LANAC argues for clear demands and a calendar of action

On Saturday at NUT Conference in Brighton, I had the opportunity to propose the amendment agreed at the LANAC fringe meeting to strengthen the Union's Priority Motion.

 Here is a video of my speech

After debate, the amendment was eventually defeated but the arguments for clear demands and a calendar of action struck home - and will have to be taken on board as the union develops its future strategy for ongoing action after the further national action proposed for the end of June.

Here is the text of the LANAC bulletin that was handed to delegates, explaining our case:

Strengthen the Priority Motion

This afternoon’s debate is the key discussion at Conference.

Conditions for classroom teachers are intolerable: 60-hour weeks, stress and bullying, pay and pension robbery, observations and capability threats.

We have a responsibility to teachers, and to the children we teach, to stop these attacks. However, to do so, we need a plan of action that is strong enough to win real gains for members.

The Priority Motion, unamended, does not set out such a clear plan. Yes, it includes points that everyone would agree - like continuing to take the Union’s message to the public.

Yes, reflecting the pressure for a more decisive approach, it does at least, in (H) and (I), suggest that action will continue in the summer and autumn terms. However, once again, it fails to set out a clear calendar of action that we can take from Conference so that Gove knows, and our members know, what action he can expect if he fails to meet the Unions’ demands. It also fails to explain what the demands are that we are striking to win, apart from those about DfE policy implementation.

Reach and pass LANAC’s amendment

Packed LANAC meeting agrees the proposed amendment
That’s why LANAC’s packed fringe meeting last night debated and arrived at a strengthening amendment (tabled in the name of Martin Powell-Davies). It adds two key areas that are missing from the Priority Motion: a clear set of demands that we are aiming to win - and a strategy for how we are going to win them! LANAC urges delegates to support the amendment - and to make sure that Conference debate is not closed down before it is reached.

Fair "implementation" of PRP is not enough

The ‘immediate demands’ in II. - like publication of spine points and positive guidance on portability - have to be made but, even if agreed, these will do no more than sugar the bitter pill of divisive and discriminatory performance-related pay. Surely, we are taking action for a lot more than that!

LANAC’s amendment demands: i) End Performance-Related Pay and reinstate national pay scales.

68 is too late to retire

Of course, as in G), we should make the most we can of any DfE reviews but we certainly can’t settle just for an enquiry into ‘supporting work until 68’.

Given the intensity of teachers’ working lives, many teachers already struggle to work on until 60, let alone 68! We have to make the demand in LANAC’s amendment: ii) A normal pension age of 60 for all teachers.

£2,000 - a pay claim to mobilise around

In building for action, the Union has rightly pointed to the 15% stolen from teachers’ incomes through increased pension contributions and pay rises being held beneath even CPI inflation, let along real cost of living increases.

Many young teachers face severe debt. Winning on pay has to be part of our campaign objectives.

However, if we are serious about pay, we need a serious pay claim that we can mobilise members to take action to win.

LANAC’s amendment calls for: iii) A £2,000 increase on all pay points.

The £2,000 claim is a figure that has been arrived at through discussion. It is a clear flat-rate claim that rightly benefits those on the lowest salaries the most. It is a claim that at least goes some way to getting back some of what has been stolen from us. It would be a 9.2% increase on point M1 in England/Wales, a 4.4% increase on U3 in Inner London.

What’s the alternative on offer? If you read the Executive amendment 37.1, the demand to be publicised is simply "a pay rise for teachers in line with inflation". How many teachers are going to be inspired to take action over a claim for 1.7%?!

Turn the tide on workload

Last, but by no means least, we have to make reducing teachers’ unsustainable workload a key objective. The Union has policy on a National Contract, including 20% PPA for all teachers, that explains the Union’s aims in more detail. We have to make clear that a further demand to win our dispute is, as in the LANAC amendment: iv) A significant reduction in teachers' overall working hours.

A calendar of action to win these demands

The Union’s campaign can no longer consist of isolated one-day strikes that look more like just ‘protests’ rather than a serious strategy to win serious demands.

We have to escalate our action and set out a strategy that can win.

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. However, we would also support proposals to draw up plans for two days of NUT strike action in the summer term.

We also agree with the proposal in J) that we try to focus Action Short of Strike Action - and LANAC’s amendment stresses that this should also be an ‘escalation’ not just a continuation of what we are doing now. For example, action could be focused on refusing observations.

What then? - Escalate in the Autumn Term

Above all, LANAC believes that we have to have a calendar that goes beyond just what we are doing next. This time, if we take action in June/July, then we need to be able to tell members what we are preparing for next. That’s why LANAC’s amendment is setting out a calendar of action for the Autumn Term that consists of:

* A week of action before the half-term break and a further week of action in November.

Our Conference would be setting out a clear message that we’re not just looking at another one-off strike, but a continuing calendar of action until Gove backs down.

* 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.

There can be further discussion in the Union about precise plans but LANAC’s amendment makes clear that we will be escalating beyond one-day strikes. It could be two 2-day national strikes or a 2-day followed by a 3-day strike. 2-day action could be divided regionally so that some areas take action on Tues / Wed and others on Wed / Thurs, spreading the impact of the strike over three days.

* A Special Conference to look at progress and plan next steps

Making further plans would require bringing the Union together again to judge what progress has been made and where we go next. The months leading up to a General Election can be when politicians are most vulnerable - so we should set down a marker now that we are ready to act further in 2015.

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