Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/735/15294
March together, then strike together against austerity
Building for the 20 Oct demo and then strike action in our workplaces
Martin Powell-Davies, a member of the National Union of Teachers' (NUT) national executive and secretary of Lewisham NUT, writes on the developing action in schools and how this can be linked to national action.
Across England and Wales teachers are preparing for the start of 'Phase One' of the NUT's national action - action we have to take to oppose the government's attacks on pay, jobs and working conditions. These attacks are, of course, also an attack on young people's learning conditions.
The action, being launched jointly with the NASUWT union, begins with a programme of 'action short of strike action' starting on 3 October.
A list of 25 separate instructions have been jointly issued. These are intended to allow teachers to come together and to start to take back control of their workload.
Already, stories of successes are being reported. For example, some schools have cancelled the much-hated 'mock inspections' after NUT and NASUWT members informed their headteachers that teachers would be refusing to take part in them, protected by the YES vote in our action ballot and the joint action guidelines.
35 NUT members packed a recent Lewisham NUT Action Briefing to discuss how to make the action as effective as possible.
School reps were encouraged to set up urgent school group meetings to collectively agree the action points they will focus on.
Teachers know that it will take determined effort to make the action effective. However, everyone at the meeting agreed that we have to take this opportunity to stand up for ourselves and start to turn back the tide of ever-increasing workload.
At one primary school, the immediate priority was over the threat from the new appraisal and classroom observation policies which education minister Michael Gove wants schools to adopt.
Teachers knew that the introduction of such policies would leave them demoralised and threatened by endless management observations of their teaching.
When I explained that Gove also wanted schools to be able to start cutting the pay of teachers who were deemed not to have met their targets, there was outrage.
We hope that schools will refuse to yield to the pressure to adopt the kind of draconian policies that Michael Gove is recommending. After all, why should schools implement the demands of a Secretary of State who, as the GCSE scandal has shown, is so clearly out to trash community schools and block opportunities for our young people too?
But where schools refuse to listen, action short of strike action alone will not be enough to defend teachers.
There was also unanimous agreement that we cannot leave this campaign just with action short of strike action - national strike action is also urgently needed.
We agreed to encourage all members to attend the TUC demonstration against austerity in London on 20 October - but to use that event to call on all unions to organise further coordinated action in line with TUC policy.
The meeting also agreed that we should write to the NUT executive to call on them to:
- Urgently approach the NASUWT to seek agreement on dates for coordinated strike action in defence of pensions, pay and conditions.
- Write to the national executives of other TUC affiliates seeking urgent discussions about cocoordinating the biggest possible joint strike action.
For more on this, see electmartin1.blogspot.com
Chicago teachers' strike wins public support
On 10 September, 29,000 teachers in Chicago went on strike against attacks on their working conditions and school privatisation.
With large picket lines and protests involving parents, they defied the Democrat city mayor.
On 18 September the teachers voted to return to work, having fought off attacks like lengthening the school day with no increase in pay, merit pay and cuts in the health insurance scheme.
Job security and school closures are still issues which remain to be fought over but this victory will give the teachers a boost to their confidence to fight back.
For more on this see: socialistworld.net
In The Socialist 26 September 2012:
Fightback against austerity
Socialist Party feature
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party reports and campaigns