Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/525/3895
National Union of Teachers conference
Strike back against pay robbery!
THE NATIONAL Union of Teachers (NUT) conference meets in Manchester over the Easter weekend shortly before the close of its ballot for national strike action on pay. There is a growing mood of determination in schools across England and Wales that the ballot must be won and strike action called. At last teachers have a chance to show their anger at the way we have been treated by this government.
Martin Powell-Davies, (Lewisham NUT)
Teachers have already had three years of below-inflation pay increases imposed. Unless we act, we'll have three more years of effective pay cuts on top of that. Year-on-year, the loss in purchasing power will add up to at least £8,000 for most teachers.
The ever-rising cost of living has hardened the mood even during the ballot period. As one teacher explained in one of the many school meetings that I have attended, "Of course I'm voting Yes, I've just received my water bill and I can't pay it!"
But many teachers won't just be angry about pay. We also want to make clear to ministers that we're not going to sit back and see teacher workload get ever worse, class sizes get bigger and our schools be further divided by league tables and privatisation.
NUT conference delegates have the chance to make our views clear to the government by widening the dispute to include their failure to deliver the promised 'work-life balance'. Instead, even official statistics confirm that most teachers are working 50 hours a week or more.
At last year's conference, a proposal from Socialist Party Teachers to ballot for national action on workload as well as pay was only narrowly defeated. But this combined action strategy, following the approach adopted by the left-led PCS, has gathered support over the year.
It has been over twenty years since the NUT called a national strike - two decades during which conditions for staff, and our students, have been ground down by successive governments. This time, we have to stand firm.
It means that most teachers have had little experience of strike action - but 24 April, the day planned for the strike, could be an important part in their own education!
As experience has shown, even teachers who haven't returned their ballot papers will still respond solidly if their union calls them to take action. That call must be given!
A national teachers' strike will close schools across the country and ensure that the growing movement against the public-sector pay freeze really hits the headlines.
Many parents will be glad to see us 'having a go'. Other workers will be encouraged to follow suit. Already FE lecturers in England are co-ordinating their pay ballot so as to take strike action alongside the NUT.
The planned 24 April strike day must be just the start. Further national action must follow, co-ordinated with other unions fighting pay restraint. Together, we can threaten New Labour with the same kind of joint strike action that forced them to retreat over pensions.
In The Socialist 19 March 2008:
National Union of Teachers Conference
Socialist Party youth and students
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party news and analysis
Post Office closures
Socialist Party congress 2008
International socialist news and analysis