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NUT strike ballot: Action on pay can win
"WE CAN'T back down now," one young teacher told a recent National Union of Teachers (NUT) meeting in Lewisham. It is vital that this determination wins through in the NUT's new ballot for a campaign of strike action, which closes on 3 November.
Martin Powell-Davies, secretary Lewisham NUT
Teachers responded magnificently to the one-day strike call in April, lifting the confidence of all public-sector workers to fight the government's pay robbery. With the civil service union PCS also reballoting, winning support for action from both teachers and civil servants is critical if powerful joint public-sector wide action is to be built.
Four years of below-inflation pay awards have cut teachers' salaries by thousands of pounds in real terms. The "trigger mechanism" that promised a review of our pay awards if inflation went over 3.25% has again been ignored. A 2.45% increase has been imposed for September 2008, with 2.3% to come in 2009 and 2010. These cuts in real pay are one way that New Labour hopes to make public-sector workers pay for the financial crisis.
The threat of growing personal debt means the need to act is even greater. But when friends and neighbours fear losing their job altogether, some teachers express hesitation about striking on pay alone.
We need to explain that workers will keep on losing their jobs and having their pay cut - until trade unions organise a fightback. By showing that we are prepared to act, we can encourage others to join in too.
Our pay claim would only cost millions of pounds, compared to the billions of pounds being thrown at the banks. The money is there - and a determined campaign could force this shaky government to provide it.
Escalate the strikes
Rather than the long drawn-out campaign that some on the NUT executive have described, a bold strategy of escalating strikes, co-ordinated with other unions where possible, can convince teachers that we are serious about winning our claim. Hardship funds need to be built in every Association (NUT branch) to help sustain the action.
Teachers have many other grievances too - on workload, class sizes and privatisation. Socialist Party Teachers have called for a joint claim on pay and conditions to deepen support for strike action. But winning this October's pay ballot will raise confidence to stand up against all the attacks teachers face.
Some of the best-received materials calling for a 'Yes' vote have been produced by Classroom Teacher.
To download leaflets visit www.classroomteacher.org.uk
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