Over 50 delegates and visitors from NUT Associations right across England gathered in Leicester on December 8th for the second conference of the Local Associations National Action Campaign (LANAC).
LANAC was created following two packed fringe meetings at NUT Conference in Torquay this Easter called by delegates angered by the continued failure of the Union to call further national strike action over the attacks on teachers’ pensions.
This latest LANAC conference was held just after Michael Gove had also confirmed his ‘war’ on teachers’ pay. Teachers wanted to meet up even at this late stage of a long autumn term because we all understood that teaching unions needed to urgently respond by calling national strike action to repel these latest attacks.
Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of supporters of LANAC, the NUT National Executive meeting held just a few days later failed to commit to action early next term. This dangerous hesitation at the top of the Union makes clear just how important a role LANAC is going to have to play in organising from below to make sure Gove does not succeed in inflicting a major defeat on teachers - with all the long-lasting damage that could also inflict on children’s education.
The NUT Executive’s hesitancy also gives the next LANAC Steering Committee on Saturday January 19 in Coventry an added significance. It is planned to be held from 11am - 3pm, Saturday JANUARY 19th 2013, at the Coventry Transport Museum CV1 1JD http://www.transport-museum.com.
PLEASE NOTE, as a London NUT Reps Briefing has now been called for that date, LANAC Officers are liaising about whether arrangements will be altered - look out for further details
LANAC’s policies and campaigns are democratically decided. Every NUT Association who supports LANAC’s aims, and affiliates to the campaign, is entitled to send a voting delegate to that Steering Committee meeting to take part in our urgent debate as to how LANAC can organise to make sure the teaching unions mobilise to defeat Gove’s attacks.
If you are not sure whether your Association is affiliated, please get in touch.
Below, is a report summarising the discussions on December 8th:
The first session of the LANAC Conference, reviewing the lessons of this term’s ‘Phase One’ action, was opened by Julie Lyon-Taylor from Liverpool NUT and an NUT National Officer.
Pride of place was given to Steve Charles, NUT rep at Stratford Academy in Newham where, following nine days of strike action, management were forced to reverse their disgraceful docking of 15% from the pay of teachers taking part in the national action-short-of-strike action campaign. This success is the best answer to Gove’s latest attempts to order more schools to use the same provocative tactics to undermine trade union organisation.
That wasn’t the only victory gained at Stratford. Steve explained how, before the action, management had been making unannounced classroom visits to lessons every day, demanding that all teachers kept detailed lesson plans written in an unhelpful imposed school format and faced disciplinary action if they were found wanting. Those visits have now stopped.
The action at Stratford also has other vital lessons that any waverers on the NUT Executive need to consider. Firstly, teachers’ anger at their treatment meant that, with a clear lead from Steve as rep, a fairly inactive union group was galvanised into determined action. Secondly, far from attacking the strikers as Gove and co. might assume, parents instead turned on the school management and helped force the headteacher into retreat. There is no reason why the same determination and support can’t be built on a national scale.
Two other school reps, Karen Wheeler from Deptford Green in Lewisham and Tom Carlyle from Bishop Challoner in Tower Hamlets also reported on victories won in their schools over observations and ‘mocksteds’ after teachers threatened escalation to strike action.
Other contributions and reports from Nottingham, Croydon, Liverpool, Birmingham, Wakefield, Hackney, Hull, Lewisham, Southwark and Lewes/Eastbourne/Wealden pointed out how the ‘Phase One’ action had helped build union organisation and rank-and-file confidence but, at the same time, was not enough on its own to turn the tide on Gove.
Many reps described important local successes but also reported that the ‘Phase One’ action was inevitably ‘patchy’, with some school groups lacking in confidence to take school-based action alone. While maintaining and extending the ‘Phase One’ action, what was urgently needed was to now urgently move to ‘Phase Two’ and call national strike action.
As Mick Wale, NUT Divisional Secretary from Hull, put it “we are winning individual battles but we need to win the war”. Pointing out the harsh reality facing teachers, Mick explained how he had just taken eight calls in his NUT Office in one week from teachers asking for help in being released from their contracts as they couldn’t take the unending stress and workload of teaching any longer.
Two NUT Executive members introduced the afternoon sessions with presentations updating delegates on the latest threats (see www.nutlan.org.uk for copies to download and use). Patrick Murphy from Leeds outlined the threats to union facility time and organisation and how the NUT needed to organise to meet those challenges. Martin Powell-Davies from London explained exactly how severe the attacks on pay structure contained in the Review Body report could be for every teacher, on top of the continued attacks on pensions.
That was followed by one of the highlights of the day, a live Skype link-up from Chicago with two members of CORE, the Caucus Of Rank-and-File Educators, explaining how they had helped rebuild the strength of the Chicago Teachers Union. By winning the support of both their members and of much of the public to determined action, they had won significant contractual gains after five days of strike action across the city. (again see www.nutlan.org.uk for an edited video of the link-up).
The final plenary session, introduced by Debs Gwynn from St.Helens, focussed on the need to build escalating national strike action to defeat the attacks on pay and pensions – and to try and co-ordinate more generalised strike action with other trade unions as well.
All the contributions to the discussion, including from delegates from Coventry, Sandwell, Lambeth, Lewisham, Birmingham, Cheshire West and Chester, West Sussex, Leicester and Warwickshire, all agreed that an urgent programme of national strike action was vital. Many also stressed how we must explain to the public how these attacks are part of a wider government strategy to cut and privatise public services and narrow the curriculum.
There were also calls to support battles against academisation at Connaught school in Waltham Forest and at Sinfin Community School in Derbyshire, where NUT members will be on strike in the last week of term (messages of support to firstname.lastname@example.org).
There was some debate as to how LANAC should relate to other groupings within the NUT, particularly the broader ‘Campaign Teacher’ initiative. Continuing the debate at the June conference, some delegates again proposed we should hold joint meetings, others that we should appeal to those supporting Campaign Teacher to come together around LANAC . It was agreed that this should be considered again at the next Steering Committee in January.
‘Unity is strength’ has always been an old adage of the movement. However, LANAC has a clear democratic structure and statement of aims, debated and agreed at our founding conference in June. For example, LANAC stands clearly as a campaign “working at every level of the NUT for the earliest possible return to collective industrial action … and for a calendar of action that can secure further concessions from this weakened Government”.
The policy of ‘Campaign Teacher’ is far less clear. The NUT Executive members present had to point out to the LANAC Conference that they could not be at all sure whether some of the other NUT Executive colleagues backing ‘Campaign Teacher’ would be voting to support an urgent call for action. Regrettably, those warnings proved to be correct.
In the light of the Executive’s failure to confirm national strike action in the first half of next term, the January 19th LANAC Steering Committee in Coventry will need to consider what meetings LANAC organises, either with or without other groupings in the Union, both up to and at the 2013 NUT Annual Conference in Liverpool. We also agreed to consider preferred prioritisation of motions going to that Annual Conference.
However, the key work of LANAC will continue to be to lobby and organise at all levels of the NUT for national strike action. Our main agenda item on January 19th will obviously be to discuss how we can urgently mobilise to oppose Gove’s attacks - and how we can lobby NUT Executive members to persuade them to launch the escalating campaign of national action called for by LANAC.
If the NUT Executive can’t act boldly to give confidence to its members to fight, then NUT members will need to act boldly to give confidence to its Executive.