Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/201/8463
Teacher shortage: Labour offers nothing
Reject The Deal
Step Up The Action
DELEGATES WERE heading to this Easter's annual conference of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) looking to step up the campaign to expose teacher shortages. But the union leaders are set to do a pitiful deal to call off action before conference even has the chance to discuss it.
Linda Taaffe, NUT national executive (personal capacity)
Once again, the leaders are letting down teachers and education. Teachers are getting out of the classroom because they have had enough of government policies, intolerable workload and divisive Performance-Related Pay. But the union leaders bear their responsibility for failing to defend classroom teachers.
In response to growing teacher shortages, the unions organised limited "cover-to-contract" action. Although this only sanctioned refusal to cover for long-term absences and vacant posts, ballots were won with overwhelming majorities. Action had spread to over 50 areas in the last few weeks.
Yet, instead of defending members, union leaders seem more interested in saving Labour's embarrassment by making sure classes aren't being sent home during a general election campaign.
"Teachers don't need an inquiry to know what's wrong with our pay and conditions."
First, they hoped the employers' offer of paying teachers £20 to cover for vacant posts could be presented as a victory. But this was angrily rejected. Now the flimsy offer of a government investigation into teacher workload is their excuse to suspend action.
Teachers don't need an inquiry to know what's wrong with our pay and conditions. Yet, in return, the union leaders intend to tell members to go back to covering for absences on top of their existing workload.
The McCrone inquiry in Scotland has resulted in the suggestion of a 35-hour working week for teachers including guaranteed marking and preparation time. Many Scottish trade unionists doubt these promises will be delivered. But, in England and Wales, the government has no intention of even making such an offer.
The supposedly "independent" School Teachers' Review Body (STRB) has already recommended a workload inquiry but has ruled out in advance any limit on overall working time or guarantees on non-contact time. The employers have rejected any prospect of a 35-hour week out of hand.
Far from calling it off, the unions should be escalating action so that the government is forced to meet our demands for a £2,000 pay rise and 20% non-contact time for every teacher.
We should extend our action on limiting workload, including boycotting the government's dangerous performance management scheme. Above all, we need a ballot for a one-day strike, co-ordinated across the country, so that teachers can take united action together. Such a day of action, asking parents to support our rallies and demonstrations, would make the government and employers think again.
In The Socialist 13 April 2001: