Class Struggle Blog

A Union for All School Workers

Published on: Wed, 10/04/2019 - 08:41

Support motion 14 and amendment 14.1.

Support motion 38 and reject amendments 38.1 and 38.2.

Teachers are not the only workers in schools, and the National Education Union is not just a union for teachers. The merger of the NUT and ATL that resulted in the NEU represents an unprecedented opportunity to build a union that can represent all workers who work in schools – cleaners, catering workers, administrators, caretakers/site managers, mealtime supervisors, learning mentors, technicians, welfare officers, teaching assistants and many more as well as teachers. All school workers have a common interest in organising together; our salaries are paid from the same budget; we work under the direction of the same school management. In each school, our terms and conditions of work are ultimately defined by, and negotiated with, the same employer.

The NEU now claims over 450,000 members, including a significant and growing number of support staff. The task now is to build an integrated, united and militant union that works for all its members. Unfortunately, led by the dominant and misnamed Socialist Teachers Alliance, the NEU watered down its pay claim and has not balloted non-teaching staff on either pay or school funding. The union has also voluntarily ceded the right to negotiate non-teaching staff’s pay and conditions at local-authority and Academy-Trust levels to Unison, GMB and Unite.

By doing so the new union is beginning to create two tiers of membership, with the poorer-paid, non-teachers as second-class citizens. The NEU’s leadership is in danger of messing up the merger and squandering the potential of a new, industrial union in education.
Conference has the opportunity to put this right. Passing motion 14 with amendment 14.1 is an important first step in setting out clearly the objective of a union that can collectively represent and bargain for all school workers.

Later on, in the Strategy Section, this means supporting motion 38 and rejecting the Executive’s amendment 38.1 (which replaces the substance and cutting edge of the motion with plausible-sounding but empty platitudes) and the more straightforwardly spoiling amendment 38.2. This is vital in order to make real progress towards the objective set out in amendment 14.1, most importantly through rank-and-file, workplace organising.
The NEU must rescind at the earliest opportunity the self-limiting agreements it has struck with the GMB, Unison etc. not to seek to negotiate terms and conditions of support staff, ending their second-class status. It is now vital that the NEU actively welcomes support staff, championing their causes and creating support-staff NEU leaders at every level of the union.
Most Headteachers, faced with teachers’ strike action, now habitually attempt to keep the schools open, staffed by Senior Leadership, agency staff and scabs. If key groups of support staff are part of an NEU organisation, and strike alongside the teachers, schools will not be able to remain open for legal reasons (the computer and registration systems will not work and the school will not be safe). The best way precarious, often outsourced, school support staff (cleaners, catering staff) and other school workers will be able to defend their interests is alongside teachers in a common trade union, by using the comparative strength of teachers to protect themselves and to organise.

Currently, if cuts to staffing are made, they most often are made to non-teaching staff or non-QTS teaching-support staff, who are either poorly unionised or served by unions who, in the main, do not deal with their concerns in a collective way, but through individual casework. A common trade union organisation in each school is also a way of breaking down barriers between different categories of workers – in particular, it will help to break down the snobbish way some teachers view support staff.

The NEU can now play a pivotal role, as the core of a future industrial trade union for school workers. We must aim for the maximum possible industrial unity, including with teachers in the NASUWT and with support staff currently in GMB, Unison and Unite, through merger and realignment on the basis of a united, democratic national union. Right now, this means the NEU actively recruiting support staff, most of whom are not currently unionised. If that also means some members of other unions deciding to join the NEU, then they are very welcome in our union!

We also, as motion 38 identifies, need to build the biggest and most united possible fight against the government in demanding substantially increased funding for all schools and increased pay for all school staff. Other unions in schools currently represent some hundreds of thousands of school support staff between them (Unison claims 250,000 members in schools across the UK) and we must seek to work with them in a common fightback.

The NEU needs to take the lead in restarting the pay and funding campaign across England and Wales. In doing so, we must urge Unison, GMB and Unite to take up the same campaign, energetically promoting it among their school-staff members, and balloting them on demands of increased pay and funding. And, while not delaying our own action through waiting for other unions, promoting solidarity and coordination of industrial action will strengthen our common campaign and ability to win.

Add new comment

Publications

Conference and beyond - For a Campaigning and Militant Union

Published on: Sat, 09/03/2019 - 16:58

The first National Education Union (NEU) conference will take place in Liverpool on 14th – 18th April. The conference will decide the direction and policy of the new union that organise 450,000 workers in schools. It is the fourth largest trade union in the UK. Workers Liberty members are very active and we fight hard to shape the NEU as an effective union for all school workers. Of the 18 sections the conference agenda is divided into 3 have motions written by Workers Liberty members prioritised, at the top, to be discussed. Those three motions, whilst not covering everything we believe, do signpost the direction we want for the union.

The first is for organising and representing support workers, which if passed would commit the union to gaining negotiating rights for support workers and end the undertaking not to recruit support staff. The second is for opposing the anti-union laws which if passed commits the union to organise a vocal and active campaign to abolish all the anti-union, this would include put pressure on the Labour leadership. The final motion written by Workers’ Liberty members demands a ballot of primary school members to organise a boycott of all high-stakes summative testing in primary schools. This would have a huge knock on effect on the curriculum, work-load and the way we treat children.

For a union that organises and represents all school workers, that fights to free itself and our movement from the shackles of the anti-union laws, that is industrially militant and fights to end the abuse of children and our members in the exam factories. We will be continuing this fight up to, in and after conference in Liverpool.

Add new comment

Publications

National Education Union Conference Motion Amendments

Published on: Sun, 03/03/2019 - 16:15

We've done some great work so far in the run up to conference. Motions written and submitted by Workers' Liberty activists and supporters on representing support staff, boycotting tests and fighting the anti-union laws are top of their sections on the agenda and will be debated.

There's still time to finesse, expand on and add detail to motions through amendments.

Pass one of our amendments through your division meeting before the March 18th deadline.

Attachment Size
NEU conference 2019 model amendments.pdf(109.88 KB) 109.88 KB

Add new comment

Publications

Union should fight to abolish GCSEs

Published on: Tue, 19/02/2019 - 20:01
Author

Alan Gilbert

Kenneth Baker, the Tory minister who introduced GCSE exams, has called for their abolition.

"They have a profound impact on young people's mental health... exam stress is creating a 'troubled generation'...

"The focus on GCSE performance tables is creating such a pressure to drive up academic results that many schools are... being forced into rote learning to deliver..."

Baker spoke on 11 February, the same day that Robert Halfon, chair of Parliament's Education Select Committee, and a right-wing Tory, made the same call.

Leaders of bosses' organisations have also said GCSEs are

Report: Education Solidarity Network Meets

Published on: Tue, 19/02/2019 - 15:41

The latest ESN meeting took place on February 9th in Leeds. There were just over 20 people present from Leeds, Lewisham, Leicester, Hull, East Riding, Wakefield, Coventry, Bristol, Warwickshire, Nottingham and East London.

The Network met shortly after the results of an indicative ballot on the pay and funding campaign were announced and this was the background to all of the discussions. The national turnout of 31% was disappointing and well below the legal requirement for a legal ballot. There was general agreement that national action was almost certainly off the agenda though many delegates believed there was a strong case for ballots for action in specific sectors. In particular there is a case for a specific 6th form ballot on pay and funding. The turnout there was 46%, the yes vote was 84%, they have a well-established national reps network and their own distinctive pay and funding issues. The meeting drew at least three other lessons from the ballot:

• The national message in the ballot campaign was unclear and incoherent. It was a disaster to abandon the pay claim agreed at Conference and replace it with one which would not benefit the majority of teachers. We need a reset pay campaign based on Conference policy and we will fight for that in Liverpool in April.

• The decisive factor limiting our options as a union is the Tory anti-union laws. We have taken action on similar turnouts in the past but now face stricter legal requirements. The ESN agreed to co-sponsor a fringe meeting at Conference in Liverpool to oppose the anti-union laws.

• The NEU should call a national demonstration on school funding, pay, workload and academies to take place on a Saturday in the Summer term. This would give our campaigns national visibility and build confidence and engagement for a serious action campaign.

The meeting agreed to support Jane Crich (Nottingham) and Cleo Lewis (Lewisham) for Conference Business Committee. Districts can only nominate one candidate but you only need one nomination to stand. The deadline is March 18th (same as for amendments) This is the committee often used to stitch up debates at Conference and silence critical voices and alternative strategies so it is important to have independent people on there who can’t be controlled and told what to do.

ESN will relaunch at Conference and beyond and it was agreed that a revised and updated statement of aims be drafted. A key aspect of this in the new union will need to be a commitment to equal rights and representation for support staff. The NEU is currently unable and unwilling to seek representation for a growing section of our members for no better reason than preserving relations with the leadership and bureaucracies of sister unions. That needs to change. While we don’t want any unnecessary divisions between unions at a local and rank and file level, that is less likely to be problem and, in any case, this has to be secondary to establishing the most effective organisation in the workplace for all school staff.

The meeting discussed some of our plans for the first annual Conference of the NEU. There will be an organising meeting for delegates arriving in Liverpool on Sunday April 14th and a fringe meeting on Monday 15th. There will be another national meeting on May 18th in Birmingham and any NEU member who wants to see an independent fighting union that represents all school workers should try to get their district represented and/or come to the meeting themselves as a supporter.

Add new comment

Publications

No Child Should go Hungry in Our Schools!

Published on: Thu, 31/01/2019 - 08:36

Lewisham NEU (National Education Union) have voted to send a motion entitled “No child should go hungry in our schools” (motion 109) to our union's national conference this year. We are calling for action to rectify the shameful situation in which some of the poorest and most vulnerable children in our schools are denied meals under the government’s invidious No Recourse to Public Funding (NRPF) designation. NRPF is a label government puts on certain migrants, meaning they have no access to benefits: the aim is to leave them at the mercy of hyper- exploitative employers, or drive them out of the country.

All children in school up to Year 3 (age 7-8) get free school meals. After this age, access to free school meals is dependent on claiming benefits. The consequence of this is that children who need free school meals, but whose parents are subject to NRPF, cannot get them. Either they go hungry, or their parents are sent bills they cannot afford to pay.

Activists from North East London Migrant Action (NELMA), Labour Campaign for Free Movement and those from the Education Solidarity Network (ESN) in the NEU are working together to raise the issue. They highlight that some councils such have Southwark have agreed to fund school meals for children with NRPF, ensuring that no child in their borough starves. They are calling on other councils to follow suit. NELMA will soon be issuing a toolkit to help local campaigners.

Activists from the ESN and others in the NEU are now working to ensure the motion from Lewisham NEU on the issue is prioritised, to ensure it is discussed at NEU National Conference in April. If you are an NEU member please go to your next division meeting and argue for Motion 109 to be prioritised.

Also in Lewisham: Lewisham Deptford Labour has voted to send a motion to London Labour regional conference against NRPF policies and the hostile environment in the context of local government. The motion challenges those Labour-run councils that remain complicit in anti-migrant practices. LCFM reports in more detail at https://www.labourfreemovement.org/against-the-hostile-environment-in-l….

by David Pendletone

Trade Unions

Add new comment

Publications

If You're in the Building, You're in the Union

Published on: Fri, 11/01/2019 - 13:46

By a London Teacher

A potentially very positive consequence of the ATL/NUT merger to for the National Education Union (NEU) is that it removed the barrier that the National Union of Teachers imposed on itself not to recruit non-teaching staff in schools. By doing so the possibility has been created of much more effective workplace organisation in schools.

The NEU now claims over 450,000 members, including a significant and growing number of non-teaching staff.

The task now is to build an integrated, united and militant union that works for all its members. Unfortunately, led by the dominant and misnamed Socialist Teachers Alliance, the NEU watered down its pay claim and has not balloted non-teaching staff on our pay demand.
The union has also agreed not to pursue the right to negotiate non-teaching staff’s pay and conditions at national and Academy Trust levels, leaving bargaining to Unison and GMB. By doing so the new union is beginning to create two tiers of membership, with the poorer-paid, non-teachers as second-class citizens.

The NEU’s leadership is in danger of messing up the merger and squandering the potential of a new, industrial union in education.

Most Head Teachers, faced with teachers’ strike action, now habitually attempt to keep the schools open, staffed by Senior Leadership, agency staff and scabs. If key groups of non-teaching staff are part of an NEU organisation, and strike alongside the teachers, schools will not be able to remain open for legal reasons (the computer and registration systems will not work and the school will not be safe).

The best way precarious, often outsourced, school support staff (cleaners, catering staff) and other school workers will be able to defend themselves is alongside teachers in a common trade union. These workers can now use the comparative strength of teachers to protect themselves and to organise. Currently, if cuts to staffing are made, they most often are made to non-teaching staff, who are either poorly unionised or served by unions who do not deal with their concerns in a collective way, but through individual casework.

A common trade union organisation in each school is also a way of breaking down barriers between different categories of workers. In particular, common union organisation in schools will tend to break down the snobbish way some teachers view support staff.

AWL teachers are members of the NUT/NEU, rather than the other teachers’ union, NASUWT, because the NUT/NEU is larger (especially in urban centres like London), more democratic and less conservative than the NASUWT. We view the NEU as the core of a future industrial trade union for school workers.

We favour a merger between the NASUWT and NEU providing such a merger is likely to lead to increasing unity amongst school workers in a united, democratic national union. These splits in the trade unions, divisions and inter-union manoeuvring weaken the working-class movement.

We are for all school workers joining the NEU including those non-teaching staff currently in Unison, GMB etc. In the minority of areas where the GMB, Unison are well-organised in schools our members and other activists should dual-card. The intention, in the medium term, should be to bring whole groups of non-teaching workers over into the NEU and win recognition agreements for these workers.

We also oppose the current Unison drive among school staff generated by inter-bureaucratic competition between unions and the appeal the NEU has to support staff (who can see the logic of a single, strong union in schools).

We actively oppose the self-limiting agreements the NEU has struck with the GMB, Unison etc not to seek to negotiate terms and conditions of non-teaching staff. We oppose second-class status for non-teaching staff inside the NEU. In fact it is now very important the NEU actively welcomes support staff, championing their causes and creating NEU leaders at every level of the union who work as school librarians, in MIS, or premises, as TAs, or as cleaners.

Trade Unions

Add new comment

Publications

New Union, New Executive

Published on: Thu, 03/01/2019 - 21:47

It’s hard to work out with any reliability the political balance in the first ever National Executive of the National Education Union (NEU). As the fourth biggest union in the UK and the first to organise all school and college workers the direction of the NEU will be hugely important for the trade union movement.

Elections to the new Executive closed on December 3rd. There were 73 places made up of 17 geographical electoral districts, 3 equality seats and 3 sector seats (post-16, support staff and independent schools). The problem with assessing the results arises from a number of factors:

The election included protections to ensure that each district elected at least one member from the old ATL and NUT sections.

Lots of new people have been elected whose political stance is more or less unknown.
The political allegiances within the NUT section, where they were a major factor in the past, have changed significantly in recent years and continue to do so. The biggest and most recent shift is that the Socialist Teachers’ Alliance (STA) and Broadly Speaking (traditionally the ‘moderates’) have followed months of working more closely together by creating a formal alliance to work together. An invitation-only meeting was held in London on December 9th to launch this new group. Supporters of the Education Solidarity Network (ESN) and the Campaign for a Democratic and Fighting Union (CDFU) were not invited. Oddly it seems that some of the SWP were invited and others weren’t.

The political basis for this alliance is close to impossible to fathom. So far two rationales have been suggested. One is that the dividing line was based on how NUT Executive members voted on a proposal to keep our 5% pay claim alive earlier this term rather than abandon it in favour of demanding the government apply the Review Body’s 3.5% recommendation in full. This would explain the invitation to some but not all SWP members but it falls apart when you realise that the person who proposed the offending motion was invited. The other rationalisation is that the priority in the new union is to ensure that it continues to be more like the NUT than the ATL and that means uniting all those who champion the NUT way of doing things. As such the aims are pretty conservative and unlikely to address the many failings of the NUT recently.

There is a more prosaic reason why all of this is hard to work out clearly. This new alliance has, in reality, one aim and one aim only: to maintain the power and positions of the people currently in leading positions. There are no principles or policies which will be allowed to get in the way of that.

All that having been said my best estimate of the political balance on the NEU Executive is as follows:
ATL: 21-2
Broadly Speaking: 10
STA: 24 (including 6 SWP)
ESN: 6-7
CDFU: 4

The rigidity of this balance will, of course, be tested by events and decisions over the next year. Many of those who arrive on January 12th with a particular loyalty are likely be surprised and disappointed by some of what they see along the way. The NEU has great potential if it is prepared to fight, to organise all school workers and not just teachers and to accept challenge from its rank and file. Those who have that perspective need to continue to argue their case, present their alternatives and both speak and listen to everyone in the months ahead. That way we can create a new and more promising dynamic than the dull bureaucratic club suggested by these election results.

By Patrick Murphy

Trade Unions

Add new comment

Publications

Vote for Education Solidarity Network candidates

Published on: Wed, 21/11/2018 - 18:34

The National Education Union (NEU) is the largest union for school workers. It has been formed from the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), currently it carries forth the existing leaderships of both unions.

The ATL’s leadership is conservative, against industrial action and generally has a service union approach. The NUT’s leadership considers itself left, being largely taken from the Socialist Teachers’ Alliance (now a total misnomer) which is supported by the Socialist Workers’ Party (also a misnomer). However, it is a leadership that has in the past used industrial action as a token to register discontent but with no strategy for winning real material gains, this has squandered the memberships' militancy and led to disillusionment - why strike and lose money when we don’t win anything and the leadership don’t seem to have an idea how to.

More recently, this same leadership, having demoralised the members now blames their lack of appetitite for struggle amongst the membership for its inactivity over a series of potential struggles. In particular year after year it has avoided leading a fight to boycott SATs in Primary schools which most primary teachers recognise are at the best pointless and at the worst are no more than abuse of our children. A boycott would allow teachers begin to regain control of the curriculum, lessen our workload and most crucially stop us harming children.

This year the STA leadership has failed spectacularly over the teachers pay claim, conference voted for a 5% rise. However, when the minister announced this year’s deal (3.5% rise for main scale teachers, 2% for Upper pay spine and 1.5% for leadership and not fully funded by government) the first response of the leadership was to welcome it. They then proceeded to start a campaign with the wholly inadequate demands of 3.5% for all teachers, full funded. They have folded this in to the campaign against school cuts. Had the leadership demanded 5% across the board, fully funded (in line with conference’s decision) it would be far easier to mobilise members to vote and take up the fight.

There is real anger amongst many school workers and with effective leadership this could become a powerful movement to defend schools and those who work in them. The Education Solidarity Network (ESN) is a rank-and-file campaign which is the successor to Local Associations National Action Campaign in the NUT. It is based on the structures of the union. The Network wants to build a lay-led, democratic and fighting union. Workers’ Liberty school workers have been centrally involved in setting it up and sustaining it. ESN is standing candidates in many areas in the forthcoming NEU Executive elections. We urge members of the NEU to vote for these candidates, for a new leadership and approach in our union. To begin to make our union the democratic, lay-led and campaigning union we need.

We are calling for a vote for -

South and West Yorkshire: Patrick Murphy
Notts, Derby, Leicester, Lincolnshire Northamptonshire: Jenny Day and Rob Illingworth
The Northwest: Peter Glover
West Midlands: Nicky Downes
Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Oxfordshire: Eileen Hunter
Brighton, East and West Sussex: Phil Clarke
Wales: Mairead Canavan
Inner London: Cleo Lewis, James Kerr and Kirsty Paton

By David Pendletone

Trade Unions

Add new comment

Publications

Teachers' pay fight: why only in Scotland?

Published on: Sun, 04/11/2018 - 17:17

Scottish teachers marched in Glasgow on 27 October demanding an austerity-busting 10% pay rise. 30,000 attended the march organised by The Educational Institute of Scotland, excellent numbers considering there are around 50,000 teachers in Scotland.

The campaign Scottish teachers are waging is inspirational, but school workers might wonder how inspired our leadership have been here in England and Wales, given that National Education Union Joint General Secretary Kevin Courtney recently rose from a posture of begging that the 3.5% pay rise offered in England and Wales should be fully funded and apply to all teachers, to praise the fight over pay in Scotland. We voted to campaign for a 5% pay rise, but as soon as the pay review body recommend a 3.5% pay rise Joint General Secretary Mary Bousted welcomed it.

The 5% demand was junked and we were treated to Dave Harvey, exec member for outer London, pouring cold water on any potential fight and telling us that ‘if there is a mood for action in schools then we would proceed to an indicative ballot to test the water for industrial action’. The lead-from-the-back bureaucrat-speak here needs unpicking a bit. Seeing the union exec’s role as organising a ballot to test the waters is a way of placing the blame on school workers when, seeing the exec aren’t willing to fight, they aren’t inspired to turn out in great enough numbers to vote for action. The executive is elected to carry out the will of conference, not to find ways to weasel out of a promise for action over a 5% pay rise by organising a consultation process for an indicative ballot to show feeling for a ballot on action which can do nothing but demobilise and disorient workplace activists and members.

Courtney’s left-posturing on the Scottish pay campaign belies an attitude to union organising which is willing to appear radical when it comes to other people’s pay claims, but unwilling to do anything to organise a similar fight for his own members. National Education Union conference, in April 2019, will be an opportunity for activists to show the executive officers what we think a fighting union is. Why not pass a Workers’ Liberty motion through your division and challenge the executive on anything from testing and teachers’ pay, through to union democracy and the representation of support staff.

https://www.workersliberty.org/blogs/2018-10-26/neu-conference-motions-…

By an NEU member

Trade Unions
Issues and Campaigns

Add new comment

Publications

This website uses cookies, you can find out more and set your preferences here.
By continuing to use this website, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions.