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From The Socialist newspaper, 31 March 2010

NUT conference: fight cuts and excessive workload


The annual conference of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) usually hits the headlines over the Easter weekend. NUT delegates must seize the opportunity to send out a clear message that teachers and trade unionists are ready to fight to defend jobs, conditions, and public services.

Martin Powell-Davies, secretary Lewisham NUT

In the 'phoney war' leading up to the general election, neither Brown nor Cameron will spell out exactly what cuts are planned. But we all know what is coming, whoever wins. All the main political parties agree that the huge state debts built up by bailing out the private finance sector's toxic loans need to be repaid - not by the bankers, but by us.

They also plan to press ahead with the break-up of democratically-controlled comprehensive schooling by turning even more schools into trusts and academies. The Tories want to take this 'education market' one step further and follow the example of Sweden where big education businesses make profits out of controlling chains of schools.

Of course, we are being told that there is no option but to cut and privatise. But why should we pay for the crisis caused by the greed of the 'banksters'?

Once the actual effects of the cuts become clear - wrecking education and other public services - opposition will grow across the country. The vital factor in building a successful national opposition movement will be trade union leadership.

Austerity plans have already led to mass strikes in countries like Greece, France, Portugal and Ireland. British trade unions face the same kind of attacks - we need to prepare the same kind of action.

That's why Lewisham NUT will be proposing to conference that our union calls on other unions to join in a united campaign to defend jobs, pay, pensions and services. Together, we should build a mass national demonstration to warn the incoming government of our determination to act.

Above all, NUT conference must make clear to the would-be government politicians that they can expect trade unions to respond to the announcement of 'savage' spending cuts with a co-ordinated ballot for a 24 hour public sector national strike.

Conference Fringe Meetings:

No more delays - call the ballot on workload!

Cuts in school budgets will only worsen the already unbearable pressures on classroom teachers. Workload gets worse every year, grinding down teachers and damaging education.

Both 2008 and 2009 NUT conferences voted for a national action ballot on workload. It's time it was carried out!

Conference must instruct the union's executive to sanction a programme of both strike and non-strike action, including clear guidelines that would allow teachers to refuse to carry out excessive demands.

Unions can't just act as giant 'casework' organisations. To really defend members, we have to build united action to demand a national contract that guarantees binding limits on overall working hours, contact time and class sizes for all teachers.

If properly planned and built for, this campaign could help galvanise teachers into action and raise confidence to stand firm on all the other issues we face.

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