Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/1110/31641

From The Socialist newspaper, 18 November 2020

Campaign for school Covid safety must continue

School Children photo: City Journal/CC

School Children photo: City Journal/CC   (Click to enlarge)

NEU exec rejects union-wide action

Martin Powell-Davies, Lancashire NEU member

The National Education Union (NEU) demands for Covid safety in schools have, once again, been totally ignored by government ministers. So, when the NEU national executive met on 12 November, you might expect it to have agreed a plan of action to answer this rejection. Sadly not.

The plan proposed by Socialist Party member Nicky Downes was voted down, with only six votes in favour. The overwhelming view on the executive, also put by the Socialist Workers' Party when they voted against the motion, was that members wouldn't vote for action if a ballot was launched.

Where executive members had opposed a ballot, unsurprisingly they got a response back that reflected the doubts raised by their leadership. But where a lead was given, and it was explained why action was necessary, it got support.

Simply concluding that 'there's no mood' leaves us exactly where we are now. Our demands will continue to be ignored.

The NEU leadership is throwing responsibility back on members, saying it will support action only when a school group calls it. But school-by-school action doesn't win national demands.

Most managements, although certainly not all, have done what they can to try and operate safely. But they can't solve the lack of testing or stand up alone to local authorities and the government insistent on fully open schools.

Members feel more confident if they are acting alongside other schools, not on their own. We need far more than occasional isolated action.

Workload

This lack of national strategy existed before Covid, particularly over workload. Again we were told there's no mood for a union-wide struggle to win a national contract.

The same problems arise. Union demands haven't been met.

Excessive workload continues to drive staff out of their jobs. Union reps and officers are drowning in casework.

The national union continues to send out petitions, emails, and publicity on social media, but it has no strategy for when they are ignored. Schools continue to operate in dangerous chaos, with staff and students ill or in self-isolation.

A different strategy is needed.


"We are a trade union, not a pressure group"

Only one motion was put to the National Education Union (NEU) executive meeting, proposed by Nicky Downes, one of the NEU executive members for the West Midlands and a member of the Socialist Party. It called for a disaggregated union-wide ballot for strike and non-strike action to win the union's Covid safety and workload demands. Here are extracts from her speech.

It's become clear that education workers are expendable. The students and local communities we serve are seen as unworthy of protection.

This union rightly called for schools and colleges to be included in this lockdown. But, on a national level, we had nothing in the back pocket to bargain with.

Our only response was to lobby. We are not a pressure group, we are a trade union.

French education staff strike to close unsafe schools, and London transport workers threaten action and win.

Our most at-risk staff are not being protected, nor are those that shield family members. Nearly every school in Coventry has had positive cases. And our infection rates are nowhere near that in the northern regions.

It's simply not true that every at-risk staff is working from home. Some have not even had their risk assessment updated. Some fear asking for working from home.

We have members that have chosen to continue to work in school. They don't want the stress of remote learning or the isolation.

We are not protecting our most at-risk pupils, or protecting the children of key workers as we did in the first lockdown. So many pupils are self-isolating or ill that schools are rarely fully open. Schools were safer for these groups of pupils in the first lockdown than they are now.

The suggestion is rotas for secondary school, but what about all our schools where social distancing is impossible and infection is rising?

It's not true

It has never been true that primary-age children do not transmit or are in well-spaced classrooms. Primary reps are asking - how are they included?

The union has successfully employed action short of strike action in the past. Why not look to that again?

These are national issues, which require national action. We have won small victories in some schools, but what about the rest?

We should be standing up to the government, not just to school leaders who often agree with us but are as constrained as we are.

We have a strong collective voice of educators, it's time we flex that muscle. Put all the options on the table, and ballot our members on both action short of strike action and strike action.


In Newham, we don't just talk about action, we deliver it

Louise Cuffaro, Newham NEU secretary

School-by-school action is exhausting for members. They bear the brunt of emotional blackmail by school managements who take it personally. Members do not feel the solidarity of being part of a national-led action.

Individual school action can win gains over single-school issues. Unlike those on the executive that just call for it, Newham National Education Union (NEU) is delivering it.

We have two schools currently on strike. One over an imposed expansion, with a proposed building not fit for purpose, the other opposing the summary dismissal of their union rep.

But this is not the way to defend ourselves against a pandemic, let alone end toxic exams, excessive workload, and league tables.

The strategy of talking members to death on webinars - with no opportunity for members to give reports, ask questions or demand action - is demoralising. The membership growth earlier in the year is being squandered.

The current leadership will be challenged from below. Elections for the NEU executive and the deputy general secretary are next year. It's time to replace those who will not lead.


How can we make schools safe?

The motion that Socialist Party member Nicky Downes moved at the NEU executive on 12 November demanded:

Donate to the Socialist Party

Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our special coronavirus appeal.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation

 

Your message: 

 


In The Socialist 18 November 2020:


What we think

Tory crisis cannot be 'reset' - workers need a new mass party


News

Tories in turmoil... 'Reset' the whole system! Fight for socialism

Croydon Council declares bankruptcy - no cuts in Croydon or any other council

System failing thousands of children in care

Race disparity gets worse - fight to improve living standards for all


Covid

Covid, vaccines, 'big pharma' - and the need for socialism


Students

Tories student 'evacuation' plan will not work

Wales exams scrapped: What's behind the headline?


Schools

Campaign for school Covid safety must continue


Workplace news

Women workers need strong trade unions to defend their jobs, pay and services

Optare: Right to strike defended

Overcrowded Little Ilford School strikes against more expansion

Strike action ballot at UEL over job cuts

Hackney council parking services brought in-house


TUSC

After Corbyn: TUSC and the fight for working-class political representation


Campaigns

How will Socialism 2020 work?

Manchester student occupation - end rip-off rent, free education now

#SpyCops inquiry - Revealing police violence against Socialists

Selling the Socialist

Stop Leicester hospital closure


Youth

Young Socialists organising for our future


Obituary

Obituary: Paul Chettle


Letters

The Socialist Inbox


 

Home   |   The Socialist 18 November 2020   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   Audio  |   PDF  |   ebook






Related links:

NEU:

triangleLittle Ilford school strike stands firm - council must use reserves!

triangleOvercrowded Little Ilford School strikes against more expansion

triangleA lockdown that doesn't include education?

triangleAction on Covid transmission in schools now

triangleNEU Special Conference: A fight for safety in schools is urgently needed

School:

triangleSystem failing thousands of children in care

triangleSchools need union action for safety

triangleTory U-turn: Free school meals

triangleTory 'Starve a Kid to Save a Quid' scheme

Covid:

triangleStop the Tories putting profit before health

triangleTUSC sets out core policies for May 2021 local elections

triangleCovid crisis: "We won't pay the price"

Union:

triangleYoung Socialists organising for our future

triangleAfter Corbyn: TUSC and the fight for working-class political representation

Schools:

triangleHorrific murder in Paris: fight intolerance and racism!

Education:

triangleManchester student occupation - end rip-off rent, free education now

National Education Union:

triangleNational Education Union must launch action now

News and socialist analysis

News and socialist analysis

26/11/20

NHS

PPE contracts: It pays to have friends in high places

25/11/20

Covid

Covid crisis: "We won't pay the price"

25/11/20

Health

Stop the Tories putting profit before health

18/11/20

Unison

Women workers need strong trade unions to defend their jobs, pay and services

18/11/20

Covid

Covid, vaccines, 'big pharma' - and the need for socialism

18/11/20

NEU

Campaign for school Covid safety must continue

18/11/20

Government

Tories in turmoil... 'Reset' the whole system! Fight for socialism

18/11/20

Government

Tory crisis cannot be 'reset' - workers need a new mass party

18/11/20

Children

System failing thousands of children in care

18/11/20

Education

Wales exams scrapped: What's behind the headline?

18/11/20

Croydon

Croydon Council declares bankruptcy - no cuts in Croydon or any other council

18/11/20

Universities

Tories student 'evacuation' plan won't work

11/11/20

Police

Spycops inquiry : why the capitalist state feared and continues to fear socialism

11/11/20

Covid

Capitalists vs working class - not in it together

11/11/20

Children

Tory U-turn: Free school meals

triangleMore News and socialist analysis articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

LATEST POSTS

CONTACT US

Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: [email protected]

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 075 4018 9052

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 079 3539 1947

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 077 0671 0041

ABOUT US

ARCHIVE

Alphabetical listing


November 2020

October 2020

September 2020

August 2020

July 2020

June 2020

May 2020

April 2020

March 2020

February 2020

January 2020

2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999