Tuesday 15 April 2014

What Strategy Can Win Our Dispute?

The key question for this year's NUT Conference

As LANAC has always argued, the generally solid turnout on March 26 showed, once again, that our members will respond when called to take national strike action by their Union.

NUT members again showed their determination to stop Gove’s attacks wrecking teachers’ lives - and wrecking education for the children we teach. 

Teachers know only too well how a bullying regime of excessive workload, performance pay, observations and capability threats is driving so many colleagues out of the profession. What they want to be sure about, however, is that the Union has a serious strategy to stand up to the bullies and defeat Gove’s attacks.

So, while teachers marched and chanted against the likes of Gove and Wilshaw in March, they were also rightly asking questions about where our dispute is going. A one-day strike galvanises teachers and registers our opposition but occasional ‘protest’ strikes alone won’t be enough to shift a Government determined to cut the costs of education and undermine the strength of the Unions that stand in the way of their plans.

What strategy can win? There are some things that we can all agree on. We all know that we need to reach out to parents to explain that our dispute is part of a wider attack on education as a whole. We also all know that we will be stronger if we can co-ordinate our action with other unions too.

However, the last few months have surely confirmed LANAC’s warnings that the NASUWT leadership will not prove a reliable partner. The professional unity we need is best forged at school level with NUT members meeting with ATL and NASUWT colleagues to explain the truth about Gove’s ‘negotiations’ - i.e they are only about ‘policy implementation’ - and to urge them to demand that their unions join us in action.

That also means that the NUT has to be clear where we stand on ‘negotiations’ too. Of course we need to make every effort to engage in discussions with civil servants but we have to be honest to teachers: we will not win any serious concessions from talks until we show Gove and Co. that we are ready and prepared to launch a serious calendar of ongoing strike action.

At the same time, we need to encourage school groups to take action on workload, observations and pay policies, consulting with reps to see if we can relaunch a focused campaign of local action. 

LANAC welcomes the fact that, with pressure growing for a more decisive strategy, plans for further action in June are being made. If the NUT strikes alone, then that should be a two-day national strike. The first day could consist of local pickets, stalls and protests with the second day for major regional or national demonstrations.

However, if, as seems hopeful, other public sector unions like GMB and UNISON are looking at one-day action next term, then it makes sense to seek to co-ordinate strike plans. However, that would make it even more important that we announce a calendar for escalating strike action in the Autumn term. 

Last, but by no means least, the NUT needs a clear set of demands to inspire members to take action to win.
Supporters of LANAC have suggested (e.g in amendment 37.2) that we call for:

  • Complete withdrawal of the divisive performance-pay legislation introduced in 2013
  • Confirming ‘68 is too late’
  • A £2,000 increase on all pay points to claim back some of what has been taken from us
  • Clear proposals to reduce teachers’ overall working hours - including at least 20% PPA for all teachers.

Friday 18 April, 7.45 pm, OLD SHIP HOTEL, on the Brighton seafront

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