Up to 2000 school support staff protested in central Nottingham on Monday 18 October in opposition to the local authority’s plans to slash their pay and conditions.
Nottingham’s Labour controlled city council — a clique of un-reconstructed Blairites — attempted to change the contracts of this overwhelming women-dominated, low paid and previously poorly organised section of the workforce to term-time only contracts, resulting in pay cuts of between £3000 and £7000. The council claimed that this blatant attack was forced upon them by “legal advice” that they were breaking the Equal Pay Act — legislation intended to protect women from unequal practices!
If the council bosses expected workers to accept these cuts quietly, they were very much mistaken. Unison acted quickly and vigorously to build and recruit in every school in the city, organising angry responses at school consultation meetings. Solidarity messages poured in from members of the National Union of Teachers in the city, expressing disgust at the council and support for their fellow workers.
The overwhelming response of the support staff has put a halt to the council’s plans, which were due to be enacted on the day of the demonstration. They now plan to hold further consultations in the hope that anger will die down. The mood of the protesters indicates that this is very unlikely: calls for further action and activity — including strike action — received massive applause.
The lessons of this victory are vital if our movement is to respond effectively against the cuts to come. Unions must not underestimate the real anger and the resultant eagerness of workers to fight back. There can be no place for ten-month, fifteen-point campaign plans to mobilise our class for a fight. We should not entertain the bureaucratic notion that lobbying and letter writing are the same thing as working class organisation.
Our class is ready to organise and fight.