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Strike back at PRP
TEACHERS ACROSS the country have angrily rejected New Labour's plans for Performance Related Pay (PRP). This weekend's National Union of Teachers (NUT) annual conference must now give a clear lead to the fight against these divisive plans.
Martin Powell-Davies (Lewisham NUT)
Instead of giving all teachers the £2,000 pay rise we deserve, New Labour are introducing "threshold" standards to limit increases to a minority. From September, a new performance management system will also link every teacher's pay to individual targets.
These proposals will set in place a divisive regime of monitoring and testing that will be like having an OFSTED inspection every week of the year.
PRP will set teacher against teacher and be used to bully staff into accepting an even greater workload.
Yet the union leaders have failed to channel that anger into the national strike action needed to make the government retreat. Instead of giving a lead, they have hoped for a compromise. Of course their weakness only encouraged New Labour to press ahead.
Pressure from ordinary members has forced the NUT to keep up a verbal opposition to PRP. But it has fallen to School Teachers Opposed to Performance Pay (STOPP) to organise action.
The success of STOPP's demonstration in February nearly swayed a majority on the NUT National Executive to finally call the ballot for the one-day strike agreed at last year's annual conference. In the end, it resulted in only a national "survey".
That survey could still be the platform for action but not if it's down to the current NUT leadership. They waited weeks before releasing the survey and then ignored the Executive's decision to give a strong recommendation in favour of action.
Our conference must make sure that there are no more delays. A firm call for national strike action could still galvanise teachers to stand together against PRP. It would also give teachers the confidence to support a boycott of performance management and refuse to apply for the threshold.
Because the unions have let things come this far without taking action, teachers are understandably weighing up whether or not to apply for the £2,000.
But the more teachers that apply for the threshold, the harder it will be to build united opposition to PRP. Every application helps legitimise the system and helps the government drive a wedge between teaching colleagues.
Conference delegates face a stark choice. Either we allow teachers to be put under even more intolerable pressure or we give colleagues a chance to stand together at last in united strike action to defeat PRP.
In The Socialist 21 April 2000: