Sunday 25 July 2021

Prepare for action to oppose the pay freeze!

Here is the video statement that I released on my Martin4DGS campaign Facebook page, immediately after the STRB confirmed a pay freeze was to be imposed on teachers for 2021/22 (with a paltry 1.5% award already separately imposed on support staff). You can watch it here on YouTube.

The school teachers' review body (STRB) report was finally released, predictably late at the end of term, and predictably inflicting a pay freeze on the vast majority of school teachers.

And we knew that was coming. Because the government has made absolutely clear that it wants us to pay for the crisis that it has created. This is despite all the work we have done throughout the pandemic, alongside our colleagues in the rest of the public and private sector.

And so the NEU's press release is absolutely correct to say that it is unacceptable to be imposing a pay freeze. When inflation is rising, it is, in reality, a pay cut. But it's going to need more than a press release to stop these kinds of attacks.

We need to learn the lessons of how we forced the prime minister into a U-turn over Covid-related health and safety, and that's by using our collective strength and using it nationally.

That's why in November, when the pay freeze was first mooted, I called for unions to call a joint conference to put together a plan of action, of meetings, rallies, demonstrations and industrial action, to oppose the attacks that were coming on pay.

In the hustings for the NEU deputy general secretary election similarly I've consistently explained that we need to organise that kind of a plan. To go out to inspire and explain to our members the action that's going to need to be taken. To make sure that we put in place the steps that can help us to meet the ballot thresholds, with addresses being checked, so that we can return those ballot papers with the maximum turnout that we can.

And I've also said that we need to produce materials for parents and the public to explain why, when the review body says that already a fifth of teachers are leaving the job within the first two years, a third within the first five years, a pay freeze like this will make things even worse and create even more instability in the classroom.

But some of my opponents say: the problem is that Martin underestimates the difficulties ahead of us. He thinks we can win a national ballot very easily. Well actually no, the opposite is the case. I know the hard work that is required to win a national ballot and that's why I'm so frustrated that the preparations haven't been done.

And we cannot delay now. The preparations have to be made so that we can defeat the pay cuts and win the demands that we also have to get rid of performance-related pay; and also to win on workload, a limit on overall hours - all things that are covered by the remit of the STRB and the School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Document.

And last but not least, we also need urgently to bring the unions together to work out a joint plan of action so that we can work together to defend our conditions and our pay and also defend the services that we work in. Let's get on with it, let's not delay.

Martin Powell-Davies, candidate for National Education Union Deputy General Secretary - 21 July 2021

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