Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/202/8477
NUT conference For real unity through action
THE CONFERENCE of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) met at a crucial time for teachers. As well as conditions of service and salaries, the main issues concerning rank and file teachers were performance-related pay (PRP) and performance management.
Bill Mullins, Socialist Party industrial organiser
Just before the conference, teachers around the country were already taking action. At least 50 associations (branches) were either taking part in or preparing for the 'cover to contract' action. This meant exposing the shortage of teachers by refusing to cover for absent teachers for more than three days.
But as the delegates gathered for the conference, they were astounded to learn that the national executive committee (NEC) of the union had voted by 23 votes to 19 to suspend the action.
General secretary Doug McAvoy said they wanted to 'maintain maximum unity' with the other teaching unions.
But in the debate, it was revealed that the other main teaching union, NASUWT, had suspended its action and told the government before it told the NUT!
Socialist Party member Bob Sulatycki, from Kensington and Chelsea NUT, seconding a reference back of the NEC report said: "We had no campaign against the imposition of the 3.3% pay award last year. We've had no campaign against the £2,000 threshold payments, which only a minority of teachers are getting.
"The leadership have abandoned teachers to performance-related pay and performance management. And after the last conference, which voted for a one-day strike against PRP, the NEC called off the strike.
"What's been the result of all these sell-outs? Teachers have a two-tier pay scale and the government is boasting of a victory.
"The fact that only a minority are getting the threshold payments has resulted in many younger teachers voting with their feet and leaving the profession. The conference debate is about the democratic rights of the conference and the accountability of the leadership. The NEC have ignored the conference and our job is to build real unity in action."
Deborah Morano, a Socialist Party member from Newham NUT, got a standing ovation when she spoke.
A resolution calling for a national ballot to boycott performance management was moved by Socialist Party member Martin Powell-Davies, with only the lukewarm support of the rest of the Left, who said this was 'not an issue'.
But Deborah reflected the anger of many young teachers, by saying she had joined the profession to teach children. If she had wanted to concentrate on targets and league tables, she would have become a salesperson. The NEC arrogantly used their usual argument that the NUT needs the support of other unions to do anything but the resolution was carried on a card vote.
Martin Powell-Davies also exposed the weaknesses of the right-wing's arguments about salaries. The average graduate teacher gets £22,000 a year while other graduates get £33,000 a year. 70% of teachers do not get the £2,000 threshold payment.
He made a devastating expos of the so-called McCrone report in Scotland which the right-wing have held up as the model for England and Wales.
Yet McCrone increases working hours for many teachers and management will define what is included in the 35-hour week. The 22% pay rise is in effect over three years. It's a competitive two-tier system.
When the Left tried to suspend standing orders to allow a proper debate on the suspension of the action, the right-wing tried to argue that this would mean other items would drop off the agenda.
This is a conference which is continually interrupted by guest speakers in the middle of important debates.
That majority voted for the debate but not by the two-thirds required. Predictably, immediately after the vote, the president introduced another guest speaker!
Over £550 was collected at the Socialist Party fringe meeting.
In The Socialist 20 April 2001: