By Patrick Murphy, Leeds NUT
This year’s NUT Conference meets in Gateshead from Friday 25 March to Tuesday 29 March. The dominant issue is likely to be the campaign to defend pension rights, with a ballot for one-day strike action due to open the day before the conference starts. The NUT ballot will close on 11 April and the target date for strike action is 26 April. This date will be confirmed after discussions with other unions, particularly NATFHE, NASUWT, Unison and ATL, to encourage their involvement in action on the same day.
The debate on pensions is likely to revolve around a priority motion from the executive which will take precedence over the existing motions from branches.
It is crucial that the action is developed beyond a one-day strike. There is already a motion from Bradford and Knowsley calling for ballots in selected schools for further rolling action and for a meeting of secretaries and executive members to decide on the future development of the campaign.
Rolling action and rank and file control of the campaign are extremely important. The general secretary Steve Sinnot and his supporters have been lukewarm on action and were pressed into the current ballot by pressure from below and the mood of determination at a meeting of branch secretaries on 10 March.
We need to keep the pressure up throughout the pension campaign. We should also seek to amend any priority motion with a call for local public sector alliances.
The other major issue at NUT Conference will be remodelling (workforce reform). This is likely to focus on two main areas: Planning Preparation and Assessment Time (PPA) and the replacement of management allowances by the end of this year.
There should be an opportunity in this debate to challenge the agenda of social partnership. Partnership with the government has resulted in pay cuts and a huge attack on our rights to pay protection. It is likely that the union will need to start debating deficit budgets and creative forms of industrial action to deal with the impact of remodelling on schools.
A key motion from Croydon and Central Notts outlines clear demands for improved pay and conditions for support staff. These low paid workers are going through increased pressure to do more onerous work for less pay as a result of an agreement signed up to by their own unions.
Other debates will give delegates the chance to vote for a political fund, a more active national campaign against academies and the establishment of a young teachers’ section.
Teacher supporters of Solidarity will also be trying to commit the union to practical support for the emerging Iraqi trade unions. We have put down an amendment in the name of Leeds NUT arguing for twinning, financial support and practical solidarity.