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Teachers must unite against Tories
Martin Powell-Davies, Member of the NUT national executive, personal capacity
Teachers have voted overwhelmingly for action against attacks on their pay and conditions. The results for the votes covering teachers in England were: In favour of discontinuous strike action 83.4%, no 16.6%. In favour of industrial action short of strike action 93.1%, no 6.9%. Similar majorities were recorded for the ballots in Wales and in sixth form colleges. Action will start on 26 September.
This government is going all-out to hound and demoralise teachers. On top of a pay freeze, we face 'pay-cuts-by-performance'. Schools minister Gove wants appraisal judgements and new 'teachers' standards' to be used to block pay-rises - or even to kick teachers down the pay scale!
As the scandal over GCSE grading has shown, the standards that teachers and schools are judged against are open to political manipulation too. We face a government intent on blocking opportunities for our students, trashing teachers, cutting our pay and pensions, attacking union facilities and widening school privatisation.
Now the ballot result gives teachers the chance to stand up for ourselves and for education.
The NUT and NASUWT, making up 85% of teachers in England and Wales, have issued common advice to members. It's vital that NUT and NASUWT members meet together in schools to discuss union advice and to plan ahead for the action in their school, encouraging every member to take part.
Regular local reps' meetings, comparing experiences across schools, will also be vital.
The immediate battles may well be around appraisal and observation policies. Where schools are imposing unacceptable policies, strike action is the best response.
Where local authorities are ignoring union protocols, we need to be urgently discussing about escalating action to coordinated strike action in line with NUT advice.
But, alongside this localised action, we also need to call national strike action. That's what really hits the headlines and puts the government under pressure. It also most easily unites members from across different schools and regions.
The NUT has been talking to the NASUWT about national strikes but nothing has been agreed yet. Members of both unions need to demand dates are set for this term. Discussions about coordinating national action should also be held with unions like the PCS - and others like the firefighters and prison officers who have recently voted to reject the government's pensions proposals.
Trade unionists must mass together from across the country on 20 October at the TUC march in London.
The NUT have asked that '68 is too late' is a key slogan on the day. But classroom teachers must make sure this isn't just a day to 'let off steam'. It has to be a springboard to rebuilding united national strike action.
UPDATE added by Martin on 11.9.12: The POA motion at TUC congress calling for "coordinated action where possible with far reaching campaigns including the consideration and practicalities of a general strike" was overwhelmingly passed, with the NUT amongst the majority of TUC delegates voting in favour.
Unfortunately, the NASUWT not only voted against, but also spoke against the motion. In essence, as far as I can see from reports, the NASUWT general secretary argued that a serious campaign of strike action would lose teachers public support.
This is not only wrong, it raises real concerns about the seriousness with which the NASUWT leadership takes the idea of agreeing dates with the NUT for a programme of coordinated strike action.
Rank-and-file members of both unions urgently need to keep up the pressure for unions to set a date for joint national strike action.
In The Socialist 12 September 2012:
Fight against austerity
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party feature: TUSC
Socialist Party youth and students
Socialist Party workplace news
Fighting NHS cuts
Socialist Party reports and campaigns
Reviews and comments