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From The Socialist newspaper, 28 June 2007

Missed opportunity at NUT executive

THE RECENT National Union of Teachers (NUT) national executive meeting missed a real opportunity to announce national action on pay.

The current multi-year pay award had a clause in it that allowed us to request a new pay review if inflation went above 3.25%. It went up to 4.5% and we duly asked for the review.

Alan Johnson, secretary of state for education effectively told us to naff off! Rubbing salt into the wound, he warned that the pay award for 2008-11, which will be announced at the end of October 2007 (almost a year in advance) will only allow for 2% a year.

If the quango School Teachers Review Body (STRB) had the inclination to be more generous, the difference would in any case be deducted from the education budget for children. Blackmail accompanied by a kick in the teeth! No increase for the next four years, and no compensation for inflation.

Teachers, like other public-sector workers, are having a hard time. The NUT Easter conference made a unanimous decision with rousing speeches to fight this 2% pay freeze, to go for 10%, and more immediately to get an interim pay review to compensate us for the loss of what amounts to 1,000 for some teachers.

At the June national executive there was a motion to carry out conference decisions. Yet it was knocked back and never even got a hearing, due to the attitude of the two left organisations the Socialist Teachers Alliance (STA) and the Campaign for a Democratic and Fighting Union (CDFU).

Instead of seizing the time, a ballot is now delayed until sometime in the autumn, and according to the view of the general secretary, probably not until the late autumn, raising concern that it would run into the Christmas period - not a good time for teachers.

A more imprecise decision was made to examine a timetable to ballot at the next meeting in July.

A decision to campaign still remains, but unfortunately, with no tangible focus, no date as yet to aim for. It may still happen but is not guaranteed. Right and Left were in agreement. But the price of "agreement" included amongst other things, dropping a bold determination for the NUT to go it alone, if the other teacher unions, who are currently in cahoots with government in a so-called social partnership, fail to join us.

The STA leadership seem to believe that the way to win is by slapping the right wing on the back, getting accepted in the big tent, hoping that the other side will see the sense of their energetic campaigning. What they have not taken sufficiently into account is that the right wing cannot believe their luck at being treated so magnanimously. The right still control the majority, and have got the wording that allows them wriggle room. At the end of the day they will win the vote to decide if, and crucially when, a ballot is carried out, despite the glad-handing.

Meanwhile teachers are receiving propaganda about how bad their pay is. However, the issue is not about how bad it is. Teachers know this because they live it. The issue is WHEN is the union actually going to DO something about it?

For the Liverpool teachers who passed the motion for action (that was not taken), their only criticism was that a one-day strike did not go far enough. The failure of the executive to give a lead highlights why it is necessary for Socialist Party member Martin Powell-Davies to stand for NUT Vice-President under a separate banner on the left. We will continue to press for the next executive to make a firm decision for action in September.

An NUT member

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