Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/27742
Staff strike in the NEU
Socialist Party members in NEU
With the New Education Union (NEU) just ten months old and hopefully gearing up for a national fight over pay and workloads, many members and activists were shocked and surprised to see that there was a national strike of NEU staff on Thursday 19th July and all union offices were closed, with the threat of more strike action to come.
The strike by Unite and GMB members has been provoked by major cuts in jobs and cuts in pay being imposed on staff by the senior management team of the NEU.
We now discover via the press that many jobs have already been cut through "voluntary redundancy" and that other workers are to be forced into lower graded jobs (albeit with pay protection for a period of time).
Many activists will rightly ask why and how this can be happening in our union? Why has there been no debate with the branches and members as to what they want the shape of the union to look like and where they want staffing resources to be placed.
If the union now finds itself in financial problems we need to know; and why weren't we told before the merger between the NUT and ATL? Why have all the senior leadership sorted jobs out for themselves and why do we still have two general secretaries and more unelected assistant general secretaries than Nato!
At a time of ever more attacks on union facility time and overall on education we need to know that our union staff are placed where we need them most - on the front line defending our jobs, wages and conditions.
Full discussion needed
What's the rush? If it is the case that the union is forcing staff in the regions into lower graded jobs they don't want, why not transfer them on their existing role while a through debate can take place on what we do and don't need, want and can afford (after all we are going to be paying them the same salary for the next five years anyway).
Surely if we are going to lead a national fight over pay and workload we need all our staff on board and motivated. We should be looking to grow our way out of any problem and the only way we can do this is to be seen to lead a fight to defend our members.
Of course we can't treat a trade union like another employer; its sole purpose for existence is to defend members' jobs, wages and conditions and not to provide well paid jobs for its staff. The union can't spend money it doesn't have.
We do not support a raid on branch funds either, that has been raised by some. This is money that gives the branches some autonomy in the fights and campaigns run locally without having to go cap in hand to the national union to beg for money to print a leaflet or book a room for a meeting, as happens in the ATL section.
This would be a dangerous move that would concede too much power to the officialdom in the union.
There may well be branches hoarding money and doing nothing with it, which needs to be addressed. This could be done, for instance, by giving incentives for those branches to do campaigning and maybe penalties for those who are simply accumulating monies. This has happened in the likes of Unison with the support of activists.
In the end it's for the members of the union to determine who they want to employ and on what pay, terms and conditions.
The Socialist party would like to see the election of all full time officials with any negotiating powers, and for them to be on a wage more akin to the wage of an experienced education worker or even seconded out of the job they are in. This would of course include the General Secretaries and the Assistant General Secretaries.
We call on the union lay leadership to step in and resolve this dispute as quickly as possible, and remove the threat of immediate forced redeployment and down-gradings.
Use the time for a full and proper debate on how we can address the problem, but this time involving the branches on what they want and where.