Pensions: 2, 4, 6, 8 – we won’t work to 68

National action needed

Martin Powell-Davies, Member of the NUT national executive
30 June coordinated strike action by the PCS civil service union and NUT, ATL and UCU teaching unions, photo Paul Mattsson

30 June coordinated strike action by the PCS civil service union and NUT, ATL and UCU teaching unions, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

While giving even more away to the wealthy top 1%, Osborne announced in the Budget that pension ages will be rising even faster. A teacher in their 20s might now have to work into their 70s to get their full pension!

NUT teachers’ union conference delegates, meeting in Torquay this Easter, have a responsibility to teachers, and to the whole movement, to vote for national strike action to defend pensions.

After the massive joint strike on 30 November, this government could not have believed its luck when the leaders of unions like ATL and Unison then swiftly retreated from the battle. Weakness has only invited further attacks.

But while others ran for cover, unions like the NUT, UCU and PCS stood firm and regrouped, preparing their members for further national action on 28 March. But that plan was scuppered when a majority on the NUT executive opted for a strike only across the London region.

But the solid response to that London strike of NUT and UCU members can now be a springboard to the national action that is really needed. Thousands of strikers marched through the centre of the capital and even the Department for Education was forced to admit that the teachers’ and lecturers’ action caused ‘significant’ disruption.

But many strikers criticised the decision to go for just London action. Many felt that a regional strike could be too easily ignored – and the press did, indeed, try to do hide it from the headlines.

Nobody wants to give up a day’s pay for the sake of it. Workers need to know that their sacrifice is worth making. National strikes are also far easier to coordinate with other fighting unions, like the PCS, than regional ones.

The Priority Motion on the NUT Conference agenda proposes a flexible formula of “bringing all other regions and Wales, in turn or together, into pensions action”. But amendments need to be passed that will fix a clear date for coordinated national strike action. 1 May – always a significant date for the labour movement – could be ideal.

The other main teachers’ union, the NASUWT, meets for its conference in Birmingham. Instead of standing aside, they should agree to join the NUT to strike alongside other unions such as PCS, UCU, UCAC, EIS, NIPSA and Unite Health.

Ministers and trade unionists alike need to know we are serious about winning this pensions struggle. So, the next action can’t be just a ‘one-off’. We need to set a clear calendar of escalating national action that can force this government to retreat.