The Socialist 29 November 2007
Nationalise the banks!
Teachers need a fighting union leadership
Thank you to everyone who supported my campaign in the election for a vice president of the National Union of Teachers (NUT). Unfortunately, this time around, I did not succeed. Martin Reed from the NUT executive and primary headteacher Gill Goodswen were elected.
Provisional results for first preferences on a low turnout were: Goodswen 6,792, Reed 5,603, Harrop 4,084, King 3,973, MPD 2,427 and Roberts 2,167.
My vote compared well in proportion to the number of nominations received. The main groups within the union were able to turn a larger vote out. But those groups are organising a union which is unable to get more than 10% of members to vote. There is clearly a big gap between many teachers' frustrations and their thinking that the union can change things for them.
The union has decided to cancel the special NUT executive, planned to give the go-ahead for a national strike ballot in December, as the government has still not pronounced on teachers' pay.
The pay campaign is at risk of being demobilised by the executive majority's strategy of waiting for the pay review body's report, rather than going for an earlier timetable - and alongside other unions when we had the opportunity to.
The ballot is now being put off until the New Year. Socialist Party teachers will be campaigning hard to encourage teachers to vote for strike action and keeping up the pressure on the faint hearts on the executive who are already talking about calling off the ballot altogether.
Others in the union (including Gill Goodswen unfortunately) also voted down the Socialist Party members' suggestion at the 2007 NUT conference that we link the ballot on pay to one on workload - which would have strengthened support for national action.
The NUT executive member who did most to criticise the chosen course of action, Linda Taaffe, is now being deliberately blocked from standing again in Outer London by other "lefts" who are organising to prevent her winning any nominations.
This risks the loss of a determined socialist and campaigner from the executive and quite possibly a further swing towards the right overall on the executive.
Despite the low turnout, many teachers related to the programme we put forward. The need for a fighting leadership of the union remains as strong as ever.
Those of us who want to see the union turn the tide for teachers will continue to fight for that programme and campaign for it in staffrooms and NUT meetings.
But it is also clear that, to argue for such a way forward, organisation is needed. That is why I want to discuss this with others who agree that it is 'Time for Change' in our pay, workload, schools, and union.
Above all, we would seek to attract new teachers into activity around the issues that matter most to staff in schools.
In this issue
Environment and socialism
What we think
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Marxist analysis: history
Workplace news and analysis