Sunday 8 February 2015

Organising against cuts and privatisation - from all the main parties

The last week has been a busy week of campaigning for TUSC and for me, the TUSC prospective candidate for Lewisham West and Penge in this May's General Election.

Organising for trade union action
Campaigning for TUSC in Sydenham
Last weekend, I travelled to Bristol for the National Steering Committee of LANAC, a network of Local NUT Associations campaigning to build the national campaign of action to defend teachers' pay, pensions and workload. NUT Associations from across England were represented, including a teacher from Warwickshire who spoke from her heart about the intolerable pressures facing her and so many colleagues. 

"I can't wait to get out" she explained. "I know I'll be in trouble on Monday because I've taken a day out of my weekend to come here instead of doing my planning". That's the reality facing education - staff having to work seven days a week to keep on top of their endless workload. Unions need to take industrial action to stop those attacks - but they also need a political voice like TUSC to campaign for teachers, and other workers, to have contracts that guarantee a maximum working-week and a decent pay and pension for the work that they do.

Academies and privatisation driving down conditions
On Sunday, I was in Brighton for the NUT's 'London weekend' bringing together activists from across the capital. Discussing with colleagues from South-East London, it was clear how academies were too often at the forefront of the attacks on teachers' conditions, and sometimes on trade union reps too.

I met some of those colleagues again at a meeting on Tuesday night in Bexley to meet with teachers from some local academy schools. One explained that owing to pressure and workload, with just two-years service, she was already one of the longest-serving teachers at the school. Another explained how she was spending at least four hours every night marking books. That's no way to run education!

On the UNITE picket-line at Catford bus garage
Trade union action can help turn this tide of attacks. That's why I was so pleased to be on the picket-line at Catford Bus Garage early on Wednesday morning to support striking bus workers fighting for a decent rate of pay for all, against the havoc caused by privatisation.

Fighting for Equalities
On Thursday, I attended the NUT's Advisory Committee for LGBT Equality, on which I sit as a member of the NUT's National Executive. This month is LGBT History Month - although fewer schools take note of it than they should.

I made sure to put in a word for the teachers at Sedgehill School getting ready to take strike action next week. (See: ). I have always admired the inclusive ethos at this genuine community school, an ethos which staff, parents and students are determined to defend. An ex-Sedgehill student visited the school as part of Grayson Perry's 'Who are You' series on Channel 4 - with an accompanying exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery.  

I also sat with my son, a Sedgehill student, in the public gallery at Lewisham Town hall on Wednesday evening. We were there to hear Lewisham's CYP Scrutiny Committee debate how the Council could justify imposing an Interim Executive Board at the school. Imposing that IEB has left the school vulnerable to enforced academy conversion, a threat that I am glad to be supporting NUT members in opposing through strike action. 

Debating the way forward
On the SERTUC 'Question Time' Panel
On Saturday, in my role as Chair of the SE Region of the TUC's Public Services Committee, I had a chance to sit on a Question Time panel in TUC Congress House alongside Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green Party, and Jonathan Simons of the right-wing Policy Exchange 'think-tank',  among others. I was pleased to steer Jonathan, perhaps unwittingly, into agreeing that parents should have the chance to be balloted on their views before an academy transfer. Perhaps he could tell governors at schools like Prendergast who, regrettably, I am told may be poised to vote for an Academy Order.

Saturday's debate was a chance for a proper discussion on the future of education, in sharp contrast to Thursday's Question Time where it was hard to spot the political difference between Tory Nicky Morgan and Labour's Tristram Hunt. Hunt made absolutely sure that voters know where Labour stands with his performance on television this morning, already turned into a TUSC meme!

TUSC - Offering a real alternative

As the picture says, TUSC, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition is determined to offer a political voice for trade unionists and all those in our local communities determined to fight against the cuts and privatisation promised by both Tory and Labour - whichever becomes the majority party in May.

On Saturday, TUSC supporters leafleted the trade unionists attending the SERTUC Conference to make clear that TUSC is backing the NUT's Manifesto for Education. Unlike Nicky Morgan and Tristram Hunt, TUSC has a clear policy of opposition to academies and free schools and stands against cuts and for the funding needed to provide high quality local authority services for schools and families.

As the picture above shows, back in Sydenham, TUSC supporters in Lewisham West and Penge were holding a campaign stall outside the Post Office. This will be the first of many local activities, including plans for a 'car calvalcade' around the constituency later in the month. 

If you want to support our campaign, do get in touch. Look out for more updates on the campaign Facebook page:

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