NUT teachers’ conference

Striking teachers in Rotherham , January 2011 photo Alastair Tice

Striking teachers in Rotherham , January 2011 photo Alastair Tice

NUT teachers’ conference

Vote for strike action!

Linda Taaffe, Waltham Forest NUT

There was a magnificent show of force by the trade unions on the 26 March anti-cuts demonstration. Now the National Union of Teachers (NUT) conference has a historic opportunity to make the next step in this battle by voting to ballot for national strike action on pensions.

Lecturers in the UCU union and civil servants in PCS are planning to take action alongside the NUT in a national one-day strike in June. Together, that would form a marvellous spearhead of three quarters of a million public sector workers.

It would set a fighting tone for the rest of the trade union movement.

We have to get into every school to explain the need to vote for discontinuous strike action. Mass demonstrations should be called on the first strike day, particularly in London.

Another big march – with an invite to all unions to come and give support – would help hit the headlines and give us a chance to put our case to the public.

However, the battle to defend our pensions will not be won in one day. We have to show our members – and the government – that we’re serious about winning this dispute.

That means escalating national action – not relying on drawn-out localised activities.

Some might complain, who can afford to strike? Nobody can. We all have bills to pay.

But how did our forebears win the conditions that we have enjoyed up to the present? By struggle – even through great sacrifice. Now it is our turn to fight to keep what has been won for us, defeat these cuts and maintain decent conditions for all those who come after us.

Teachers will lose money. That is certain – around £70 a strike day.

But what is that compared to the £100 a month extra we will have to fork out every month if we lose this battle.

And what will we be paying extra for? For a reduced pension, and the loss of thousands of pounds over a lifetime – if we’re still alive to claim the pension!

Teachers, lecturers and civil servants should be seen as standing up for everybody. We should immediately set about appealing to the whole trade union movement to join us in action against cuts, starting with a 24-hour public sector strike.

We must put the leaders of the big local authority unions like Unison, Unite and GMB under pressure to come on board. Against such a force the government would have to think twice.

Cameron and Clegg talk big, but they have not yet been seriously tested by union action. Even so, they have been forced to make a few partial U-turns over EMA student payment cuts in Scotland and Wales, forest sell-offs, and possibly now a NHS ‘pause’ too.

Just think what concerted industrial action could do. It’s time to make a stand.

Let’s send a warning to this government. We’re not paying for the greed of the bankers and bond traders.

We will organise a mighty campaign to defend pensions, jobs and services.