Class Struggle Blog

No Child Should go Hungry in Our Schools!

Submitted by Class Struggle 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
Publications

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

Submitted by Class Struggle 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
Publications

New Union, New Executive

Submitted by Class Struggle 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
Publications

Vote for Education Solidarity Network candidates

Submitted by Class Struggle 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
Publications

Teachers' pay fight: why only in Scotland?

Submitted by Class Struggle 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
Publications

NEU Conference Motions - 2019

Submitted by Class Struggle on Fri, 26/10/2018 - 09:56
NEU COLA strike

Workers' Liberty schoolworkers have written a raft of motions for NEU conference, covering a range of issues from testing and teachers' pay through to union democracy and the representation of support staff, fighting the anti-union laws, defending free movement and more!

See if you can get one or more of our motions passed through your NEU division. Motions need to be submitted by 3rd December 2018, so keep an eye out for division meetings in November!

Help us to priorities our motions at division meetings before 18th February 2019.

Trade Unions
Issues and Campaigns
Publications

Socialist Workers' Party: Split or choreographed manoeuvre, they've let us down, again.

Submitted by Class Struggle on Wed, 10/10/2018 - 11:15

The self-styled 'revolutionary party' the Socialist Workers' Party (SWP) are much diminished from their 80s and 90s peak. They have been, rightly, shattered by their decision to put protecting their organisation and leading members of it ahead of ensuring a fair hearing for young women in their group making allegations of rape. Yet despite this they held a residual weight in the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and now in the National Education Union (NEU). This relative strength is even more surprising when you consider their modus operandi in the union, essentially providing left cover for an ineffective pseudo left leadership. Time and again at national conference SWP comrades make radical sounding speeches and then vote against effective action on workload, testing and pay.

In particular, the SWP have played a terrible role on the fight to stop high stakes testing for primary school children. For years Workers' Liberty comrades have written motions that have gone to conference calling for the union to ballot for a boycott of SATs and other high-stakes tests in primary schools. We are very proud of our role in this fight. Every year, the union's leadership supported by the SWP weasel around to find reasons to not call a ballot: they call for consultation; they suggest that boycotting summative testing would mean boycotting spelling tests; they pretend that their ineffective strategy for stopping Baseline testing will not only stop Baseline but bring down SATs; they hold conferences to discuss how terrible it all is and they print t-shirts and then they vote down balloting to boycott!

Despite this shabby tradition they may even have surpassed themselves in their reaction to the latest pay deal (see separate post). The union had put in for 5% full-funded, the government gave 3.5% to main scale teachers, 2% to upper pay spine and 1% to leadership. Not only that but it was not fully-funded so that schools would have to pay a substantial part of it out of their meagre and shrinking budgets. So how did these leaders of the class react. Well, their members on the union's National Executive split on the vote, the two closest to the SWP leadership (Jess Edwards and Stefan Simms) voted to support the union leaderships line of demanding 3.5% fully funded across the board, whereas two others (Anne Lemon and Simon Murch) voted with the left to build for action for 5% fully funded for all teachers (errr... you know the claim the union had put in!) Edward's and Simm's votes ensured the union's leadership got their way. Leaving the union building for action for demands which do nothing to motivate teachers on main scale (because they are only demanding that the government funds the 3.5%, they have agreed to pay them!) to take industrial action. The majority of the union's membership are on main scale.

How to explain the SWP exec members split? Perhaps it was a choreographed manoeuvre to get the leadership line through but allow some of them to appear radical. More likely is that Lemon and Murch were off message and just hadn't lost their class struggle bearings altogether. Whatever, it is another sorry chapter in the tragedy of their group's intervention into our union.

However, that isn't the end of it! Some SWP dominated school groups circulated on social media pictures of them holding up banners with the slogan: 'Will accept 3.5% but worth 5%. Ballot for national strike action now.' Beyond parody!

The SWP as an organisation are not only, not going to lead a revolution, they are not even vaguely competent trade unionists.

David Pendletone

Trade Unions
The AWL, Labour and the Left
Publications

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