Four Socialist Party members elected to NEU executive

A thirst for action and a fighting leadership

NEU strikers at Notre Dame in Leeds, 12.2.20, photo Iain Dalton

NEU strikers at Notre Dame in Leeds, 12.2.20, photo Iain Dalton   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Socialist Party members in NEU

The National Education Union’s (NEU) ballot for the national executive election shows a clear thirst for action and a fighting, decisive leadership. Not only did the Socialist Party’s current executive member Nicky Downes retain her seat, but three more Socialist Party members will be joining her in September.

Three regions were given the opportunity to vote for a Socialist Party member, calling on the union to fight from the front, while building from below, which allowed Sean McCauley, Sheila Caffrey and Louise Cuffaro to also get elected. In addition, Alex Moore did really well, receiving enough votes to be elected, but missed out due to the gender balance rule within the union. We stood in collaboration with other left-wing candidates from the Education Solidarity Network (ESN).

The Socialist Party stood five candidates who put forward demands such as:

  • Win on workload: a national contract that genuinely limits hours
  • End the pay freeze: a substantial pay rise for all
  • Defend support staff: colleagues who face high Covid-19 risks must not also face low pay, unrealistic demands, and job cuts
  • Stop companies exploiting supply teachers’ pay and conditions: re-establish local authority-controlled supply cover

However, these were demands that many others put forward too. What made us, along with other ESN candidates, stand out is that we suggested a programme to actually win our manifesto. We attended hustings, requesting them in many areas which weren’t intending to have them, to encourage union members to ask questions and put pressure on the leadership for action.

We pushed for union recognition for support staff in our union, who are currently allowed to join but not to be collectively bargained for. We pointed out the current union strategy of fighting school-by-school on national issues can leave members isolated and reps vulnerable.

Instead, we call for the building of solid national campaigns, by giving reps and local areas the support and training so that we can win national ballots for action. And we put forward the need to talk to other unions and our sixth form sector, which regularly beats legal thresholds, and share their experiences with officers, reps and members. We also outlined fighting to defend supply staff, many of whom haven’t even received furlough in the last year, with a proper national campaign and not with just press releases and webinars.

The NEU has been heralded by many in the union movement this last year for its packed online meetings and massive increase in membership, which is boasted about by the current leadership as proof that what they’re doing is working. Yet we still have many schools, colleges and nurseries without reps and with many members feeling disenfranchised as they battle individually.

We are proud to have gained 1,688 first preference votes, but the highest turnout for a region was 8.5% of the membership. This shows a long way to go for the NEU to galvanise its membership to become a unified, fighting force.

Our role on the executive will be to build links with those education workers already active and engaged, but also to develop this so all NEU members see a point to fighting in their union and their workplaces. But the union elections don’t end there. This autumn, NEU members will also need to elect a new deputy general secretary.

A fighting socialist in this position would ensure the union had the best chance to beat back the government on its constant attacks on education. Socialist Party member Martin Powell-Davies is running as a long-standing union activist and has already received pledges of support from branches and activists across the country. So, if you’re a worker in education, get in touch to help us build the campaign for the strongest, active union in education.