Class Struggle Blog

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.…

By an NEU member

Trade Unions
Issues and Campaigns

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NEU COLA strike

NEU Conference Motions - 2019

Published on: Fri, 26/10/2018 - 09:56

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

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

Published 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

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