Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/199/8149
Teachers must stand firm
THE TEACHER shortage has brought many schools near to breaking point. Many teachers now work on average a 52-hour week.
Linda Taaffe, National Union of Teachers (NUT) executive member, personal capacity
There aren't enough new teachers coming through the system. The government say teacher training applications have increased but a 23% rise in Physics applications across the country means just 22 people.
Officially there are 1,000 teacher vacancies in the London area alone! Union researchers reckon there are ten times that number.
There are also acute shortages in such areas as Leicester, Nottingham, Doncaster and Southampton.
After a joint ballot from teachers' unions NUT and NASUWT, we've been working to rule for a fortnight.
It's very minimal action, working to contracts which say we only have to cover for absences for up to three days. Some classes are being sent home.
The employers at first wanted to fine teachers but our strength and solidarity quickly made them about-turn.
Now the employers have written to the unions saying they can't break this deadlock while there's the "pressure" of our industrial action. But there would be even greater 'pressure' on teachers if we were to give up our action!
The leaders of the NUT, NASUWT and ATL want their union conferences this Easter all to discuss the same motion, calling for an inquiry into teachers' pay and conditions - a version of the McCrone report in Scotland.
The teachers' union leaders want to negotiate with the employers a new teachers' contract to present to the next government.
The scheme's fraught with traps. The Scottish deal has some good things in it but it's also got pitfalls.
The employers are talking vaguely about new 'flexibility' but seemingly the only concrete offer is the unworkable suggestion of paying us £20 an hour to cover for our colleagues.
We want to be paid well for the work we do, and we already work all the hours there are!
The union leaders should stand firm and keep up the action.
We should demand £2,000 a year for all with no strings and a 35-hour week.
In The Socialist 30 March 2001: