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NUT general secretary election
A Teachers' Leader On A Teacher's Salary
Socialist Party member Martin Powell-Davies is campaigning to stand in the general secretary election in the National Union of Teachers (NUT). With a fighting programme to change the NUT and defend and improve teachers' pay and working conditions, he is currently speaking at as many local association (branch) meetings of the NUT as he can. He recently gave a report to the socialist about his campaign:
"There is an enthusiasm for what I'm doing, because I'm standing for change and I'm someone who is genuinely in touch. Teachers are used to the headteacher and other advisers coming round telling them what to do - when the teachers know full well the 'advisers' couldn't do it themselves.
"That's why I've always chosen, although I could have been on full trade union facility time, to actually keep some time in the classroom. Unless you're in touch with the problems facing members, how can you represent them?
"That's also true on salaries. I am the only candidate who has launched his campaign with a clear pledge to be a 'teachers' leader on a teacher's salary'. The fact that [outgoing general secretary] McAvoy is on at least £94,000, plus expenses is an outrage. How can you possibly stay in touch with the problems facing young teachers who are up to their necks in debt and struggle to pay their bills?
"I helped to organise strike action on London allowances. So that we won, at least for some teachers, an effective £6,000 London allowance.
"What I'm saying to teachers is: 'That's how I won myself my last pay rise. If I become general secretary, that's how I'd win myself my next pay rise, not by just awarding myself a massive salary.'
"I'm travelling around to a lot of different meetings at the moment. To the south west, to Merseyside, Leicester, all across London. It is a battle because some officers of some associations, both on the right and the left, seem to be trying to make it difficult for me to get my ideas across. My opponents recognise that where ordinary classroom teachers hear me, they support my programme.
"At a meeting in Southwark, south London, recently, a couple of teachers came up to me at the end and said: 'Up to now we were going to support one of the other candidates but now we've actually heard you, we'll be supporting you.'
"My programme has not been sucked out of my thumb but it's a result of meetings, discussions at union branches, in staff rooms over the months and years and it's a reflection of what people want.
"TWO OF the other candidates, Steve Sinnott and John Bangs, are national officials of the union. Steve Sinnott is the deputy general secretary. Both of those candidates have got to take their responsibility for the failings of the union over the last decade. They offer no way forward for teachers.
"Steve Sinnott in particular claims to stand on the platform of unity with other teachers and other teaching unions. But he wants to do that, I believe, on a platform of ditching our opposition to teaching on the cheap and to performance related pay and the deals that the other unions have signed up to, which will only damage teachers and damage education.
"I stand for teacher unity by convincing the ordinary members of the other teaching unions, NASUWT and the ATL, to put pressure on their unions to withdraw from those agreements and then work together in action to get decent deals.
"John Bangs claims to be an independent but is actually Doug MacAvoy's chosen successor.
"The third candidate is Ian Murch. Ian also claims to stand for change in the union but his cautious approach risks defeat in this election. When he stood as union treasurer before Christmas, the turnout was only 16%.
"Many teachers looked at the three candidates and weren't convinced that a vote for any of them - including Ian Murch - would get things changed. I think that will be the danger again.
"It's only my clear approach, standing for change, which will attract a new layer of teachers and show them it's worth voting.
"I'll be calling for a transfer of votes to Ian, so that even if I was eliminated I think that my stand will help to get more votes for Ian and votes for change. I'm hoping Ian will call for a transfer of votes to me and together our vote will hopefully go on to win.
"Every reader of the socialist knows a teacher, everyone can help the campaign. The priority up to Easter is to get ten nominations from local associations. For material, look at the website or contact us for leaflets. We're also having regular campaign meetings which anyone can come along to, to ask questions and put forward ideas."
Martin's programme prioritises:
Strengthening workload guidelines to enforce a real "work-life balance".
Launching a national demonstration as the first step in building national industrial action to oppose the attacks on pay and pensions.
Building unity in action to stop schools making cuts by replacing teachers with unqualified staff.
Making sure NUT members can win a new ballot to boycott SATs tests. Martin is the only candidate who believed the union was wrong to insist on a 50%+ turnout.
Contact the campaign for leaflets and other material. Website: http://elect-martin.tripod.com
Tel: 07946 445488
In The Socialist 20 March 2004:
What we think
International socialist news and analysis
Workplace news and analysis