A meeting of National Union of Teachers (NUT) reps and activists in Yorkshire has called on the union’s Executive to reverse its decision not to strike in March against Michael Gove’s plans to attack teachers’ pay.
The Executive voted by a margin of 22-20 on 24 January not to name a strike date. The Executive decided instead to prioritise discussions with the NASUWT, another teaching union, with the aim of getting NASUWT on board for a strike in June.
The move will come as a surprise to some teachers, especially following a large and militant “pay briefing” in London at which NUT reps and activists expressed overwhelming support for a strike as soon as possible (realistically in March).
London is, however, more militant and better organised than other NUT regions, and some Executive members may have been worried about the strength of an NUT-only strike, without NASUWT support, in other areas of the country.
There is a rational kernel to that worry, but recent experience shows that the best way for the NUT to bring NASUWT on board with its industrial actions is to take some. The NUT (and, surprisingly, the more right-wing ATL) struck on 30 June 2011, without NASUWT support, but as the campaign continued NASUWT were brought on board and did participate in the 30 November strike. Striking will increase in the pressure on NASUWT members to act. Accommodating to their cautious approach will reduce the campaign against Gove’s plans to a pace teachers cannot afford.
The pay reforms, which will effectively abolish national pay scales, are due for introduction in September.
A strike in June, if it even takes place, will be far too late.
The prospect of the NUT striking alone in March may be daunting but the stakes are too high to wait.
NUT members’ confidence could also be bolstered if a March strike is announced explicitly as part of an ongoing campaign, including other protests and actions as well as further strikes, that NUT members can get involved in and take ownership of through regular workplace and regional meetings.
The NUT’s pay briefing meetings for reps and activists are continuing to take place. The only one to have occurred since the Executive took its decision, in Yorkshire, voted unanimously to call on the Executive to reverse its decision and name a March strike date at its next meetings. This is a good start.
Pay meetings are due in Birmingham, Manchester, and Newcastle on 2 February, in Brighton on 9 February, and in Norwich on 13 February. Activists attending should demand that these meetings follow Yorkshire’s lead. Lewisham, Greenwich, Hackney, and Southwark NUT have also called a lobby of the Executive’s next meeting, on Wednesday 27 February.
For more information, see the website of the Local Associations National Action Campaign