Thursday, January 31, 2013

Time is running short - call national strike action!

The article below is from the latest Classroom Teacher bulletin. A copy can be downloaded from:

UNLESS WE TAKE NATIONAL STRIKE ACTION SOON, Gove will have won his ‘war’ on teachers without teaching unions even having put up a serious fight. Teachers face losing thousands of pounds from our pay, and from our career-average pensions, as cash-strapped schools refuse teachers pay-rises. Demoralisation will get even worse as managers pick-and-choose who gets what, and impose even harsher demands and targets on us.  

Keep up the pressure on the Executive
Time is running dangerously short to force Gove back. That’s why the NUT National Executive’s decision NOT to call a first day of national strike action on 13 March will have been a disappointment to many teachers. But the narrow margin of the vote – with 20 votes in favour and just 22 against – shows that the pressure from classroom teachers IS having an effect. It’s now vital that, in every region of the country, NUT members apply even more pressure on their Executive members to vote for the urgent campaign of strike action that we need. That same pressure also needs to be applied inside the NASUWT too.


“The time to sit back has to end”
The official NUT press release following the National Executive meeting rightly stated that “Michael Gove must understand that unless this onslaught against teachers’ pay, pensions and working conditions stops then strike action is inevitable. Teachers do not take strike action lightly but when the profession is being torn apart by a Government whose reforms have little to do with standards, or evidence, then the time to sit back has to end”. That’s true but, for now, teachers are still being told to sit back!”. The February NUT Executive MUST call action!  

National action needs to to start THIS term
A programme of national action really needs to start before Easter. Action at the end of the summer term alone will surely be too late to force Gove into retreating from his damaging threats, or, at the very least, into making some concessions to teaching unions. By then, the legislation will have already been agreed by Parliament. Governing Bodies will already be meeting to discuss how to implement the plans for September. By then, some schools will be deciding which teachers will receive a 1% annual increase, and who will receive nothing at all. Some will start to make pay decisions based on THIS year’s appraisal targets – blocking pay progression for teachers from September 2013. If we’re not careful, teachers will have concluded that the battle’s over before it’s really started !

Follow action in March with further strikes 
Teachers are practical people. It will be tough to lose pay on strike days but, if we can force Gove back, we’ll save so much more! But, a one-day ‘protest’ strike won’t be enough; we need an ongoing programme of action. At school meetings, Reps’ Briefings, and NUT Conference, teachers will want to debate what, when and ‘how often?’ At the 300-strong London NUT Briefing, there was a lot of applause given to reps who proposed escalating from an initial one-day action to a further 48-hour strike next term. Whatever is agreed, teachers need to start preparing now by putting away some cash to pay for the strikes to come and building hardship funds to help those who can’t do so.

Teachers will support action - if unions give a lead
The London NUT Briefing voted unanimously for national strike action. Last year’s legal ballot - and subsequent internal surveys - have also backed national action. Of course, the mood isn’t even across all schools and all regions; that’s inevitable. But we have no shortage of arguments to give to both teachers and parents to explain why Gove, in general, and PRP, in particular, has to be opposed. It’s high time unions started getting those arguments out to their members and building for action!  

How long can we wait for the NASUWT?
By that narrow majority, the NUT Executive voted to delay calling action and to wait to see if further discussions with the NASUWT could produce a joint plan of action. But how much longer can the NUT wait? And are the NASUWT prepared to sanction more than just a one-day protest? If the NASUWT won’t act quickly enough, then the NUT will have to act without them to start with - just as happened in June 2011 over pensions. If the NUT calls action on March 20, then it’s very likely that, as in 2011, it can co-ordinate with PCS members taking national action too.

NUT Executive meets again on February 28
Time is now dangerously short, but pressure from below has been having an effect. Further pressure can make sure that the next NUT National Executive meeting on February 28 finally calls national action. The future of education, and of union organisation, is at stake. Gove is out to wreck education and rip apart our national pay and conditions. But the stakes are too high to get downhearted by the continued delays. NUT members, reps and Local Associations must demand that a serious programme of action is called before it is too late.

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