Teachers: fight for strike action is on

Education minister Michael Gove has declared that he is on a ‘war footing’ to drive through his attack on teachers’ pay. We mustn’t let him succeed.

Too many teachers already struggle to cope with relentless workload. Stress levels, resignations and demoralisation are rising.

If Gove gets away with his plans, teaching will become a truly horrendous profession for too many.

But Gove’s plans can – and must – be beaten. If we organise effectively, and put in place a firm programme of national strike action, then we can force this government to retreat.

This is no time for teaching unions to hesitate or retreat. We mustn’t repeat the delays of last year, when further pensions action was postponed – giving Gove the chance to step up his attacks. If unions give a clear lead, teachers will respond to their call to action.

In a National Union of Teachers (NUT) survey of its members, 84% said they were in favour of striking with the other main teaching union NASUWT, while 79% said they would be prepared to take to the picket line alone.

In December the NUT executive put off the decision on calling action until the next executive on 24 January.

But pressure has been building for national strike action at least to start on a date later this term.

There is now some chance that the NUT could call national strike action on 13 March, a day that coincides with a European TUC day of action. There is no definite majority yet on the executive to go ahead for action on that day – so there is lots of lobbying to do!

NUT reps briefings have been called in London, Cardiff and Liverpool on 19 January, as well as a regional council in Yorkshire.

Because of that, the meeting of the Local Associations National Action Network (LANAC) steering committee has been postponed.

LANAC was formed last year by a number of NUT associations to campaign for the union to organise action.

LANAC has said it will do everything it can to mobilise for the reps’ briefings and organise to make sure that reps and associations are lobbying their executive members to call for action.

The NASUWT has regrettably made clear that they are not in favour of taking strike action this academic year.

The debate is, therefore, about whether the NUT takes action independently this term – or not. It is our job to go out and explain the seriousness of Gove’s attacks, and turn the undoubted anger in schools into action.

Martin Powell-Davies, Member of the NUT national executive