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From The Socialist newspaper, 26 May 2010

Education under attack: Con-Dem government prepares for battle

HAS ANYBODY got any lingering doubts of the government's intentions? The Financial Times - a house journal of the capitalist class - let the cat out of the bag in an article on 20 May.

Derek McMillan, teacher, Sussex

"Before the election, the coalition parties aimed to avoid a direct confrontation with the unions. They now appear braced for pitched battle. The unions were always bound to figure prominently in this parliament.

"The government must rein in a fiscal deficit of 11.1% of output. Public jobs and pay must bear the brunt of spending cuts. In the state sector, 68% of employees are bound by collective pay agreements.

"The parties' manifestos suggested plans to outflank the unions. They wanted to force through tight pay settlements while undermining the unions by contracting out an increased share of public services to private providers. The coalition agreement sets out a path to direct confrontation."

The FT takes it as read that the working class, starting with the public sector, "must" pay the price for a crisis not of their making. There's no "must" about it.

The government will throw down the gauntlet to the trade union movement. The nice Cameron/Clegg mask will be torn off to reveal the Thatcher within. For teachers, national pay and conditions agreements will be torn up.

The FT, again, says: "More explosively, the new government intends to attack national pay bargaining. It wants to 'reform the existing rigid national pay and conditions rules...' for schools. The coalition's ambition should be greater. National pay bargaining is a problem well beyond education."

Yes this plan should be "explosive" but it is up to rank and file trade union members to make sure it actually is.

Education trade union leaders of "left" and "right" may seek delay and compromise as they have always done in the past.

And as the FT understands, a defeat for the teacher unions would be the harbinger of a defeat for other workers with national pay bargaining - unless they fight back.

NUT Executive member Martin Powell Davies' call for the June executive meeting to indicate that a strike ballot will be the response to any such attack from the government is timely.

This political attack also requires a political response.

Labour too always sought to destroy national pay bargaining through precisely the tactics laid out in this FT article.

Those union leaders who continue to back New Labour are acting against their members' interests.

Anyone who voted Lib Dem to keep the Tories out will be reconsidering now.

We need a party for the 'common people' - a party of the working class.

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