NUT digs in for a war not a battle

By Paul Cranston

Teachers will be taking further action against this government because their pay and conditions are under sustained attack, the scale of that deterioration being illustrated in the graphs below (originally published here).





This assault on their living and working conditions has impacted on teachers voting intentions, since the 2010 election there being a dramatic collapse in support for both coalition parties. In 2010 32% of teachers voted Conservative and 32% Liberal Democrat, when YouGov polled in January the level of support was just 16% for the Conservatives and 8% for Liberal Democrats.

The 2014 NUT Easter conference reaffirmed solid support for continuing to resist the government’s attacks, both on bread and butter issues and the drive for a patchy, privatised, fragmented, unaccountable school system with an overly standardised and abstract curriculum that seems designed to damage the life chances of any but the most privileged children.

The strategy set out by the leadership around Christine Blower and Kevin Courtney combines a relentless but flexible approach to strike action with mass campaigning designed to activate the membership like never before. The NUT leadership is encouraging the maximum mobilisation possible at present. SO whilst the conference considered calling four days of strikes in the autumn term, this was rejected as it goes beyond what can be successfully delivered. With the NUT representing about 40% of teachers, an emphasis on united action with other unions has been crucial to the success of the campaign to date and the prospect of unifying all three TUC affiliated teacher unions urgent.

Several joint regional strikes with the NASUWT from June to October last year, with accompanying rallies, lobbies, inventive use of social media, led to the Pay Review Body knocking back Secretary of State Michael Gove’s proposals to rip up all limits on teachers hours and virtually all legal protection from any demand that might be made by management.  This is the first time that a Secretary of State’s recommendations have been spurned so contemptuously by what is normally quite a compliant body. it underlines a key political fact that with the general election looming ever closer, anything that Michael Gove tries to do will be built on sand unless underwritten by Labour as the most likely incoming government and, with quite a few Tory held constituencies with a majority of less than the number of teachers in them, Gove’s wider unpopularity could be a source of pressure from his own party that limits his room for manoeuvre.

The NUT/NASUWT negotiating position and Gove’s response can be seen here.

The strike by the NUT alone on March 26th was a strong statement that this union is in this fight to the finish. Plans for the campaign this term can be seen here.

The NASUWT also voted to strike if there is no progress in talks. The first rumblings of a wider campaign, with the UNISON ballot of its 600 000 local government members for a pay strike in late June or early July puts significant joint campaigning and strike action on the cards.