The Socialist 25 May 2006
Time to stand up to NHS cuts!
Teachers call for action
MOST TEACHERS want to fight this Education Bill but unfortunately some of our union leaders are against discussing industrial action to oppose it.
Martin Powell-Davies, Lewisham National Union of Teachers (NUT)
At a recent National Union of Teachers secretary's meeting I summed up the likely parliamentary arithmetic for the Education Bill debate, saying that it was likely that "the union will win the argument but lose the parliamentary vote."
I then asked the NUT's general secretary Steve Sinnott when the union Executive would be campaigning for the local and national industrial action that conference unanimously agreed should be considered.
Outrageously Steve Sinnott came out with the old right-wing accusations that some of us in the NUT were always "salivating over industrial action!"
Then he made absolutely clear that in his view "the campaign would be damaged by industrial action at the moment". In other words, don't frighten the MPs, keep lobbying rather than pursuing industrial action.
Of course, we have to go through the necessary steps of lobbying, leafleting etc - raising the issue to parents and our union members. But - and NUT members in schools are realistic about this - lobbying alone is unlikely to change this government.
They will need to feel under much greater pressure - and that's why industrial action is vital (especially in the absence of a mass party that can challenge them at the polls).
We must use this stage of the campaign to raise NUT members' horizons to the strike action that will be needed to defeat privatisation and the attacks on education - both nationally and in local struggles.
We have to urgently raise the question of "what next" if the Bill goes through. We have to raise the prospect of action, yes locally where required to defeat trusts, but also as a national protest in the autumn term when the Bill returns from the Lords. The teachers' unions urgently need to start canvassing support for action in schools.
In this issue
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Environment: Nuclear power
Campaign for a New Workers Party
Socialist Party workplace news
International socialist news and analysis