Socialist Worker

NUT conference: united action is needed to face down pay cuts

by Kelly Hilditch in Harrogate
Issue No. 2046

The NUT teachers’ union conference last weekend showed the anger at Gordon Brown’s public sector pay freeze, and the desire for unity to break it.

The conference voted unanimously for an emergency motion on public sector pay.

The motion attacked Brown’s 2 percent public sector pay freeze and committed the union to ballot members for a one day national strike alongside other teacher and public sector unions.

Mark Serwotka, the general secretary of the PCS civil service workers’ union addressed the conference’s opening session.

Some 250,000 PCS members are set to strike on May Day over job cuts, pay and privatisation.

The PCS is urging unions and activists to turn May Day into a day of defence of public services.

Mark Serwotka told the conference, “When our members take action you support our pickets, and we support yours. Unity in action can really make a difference.

“May Day is a day when public sector workers should act together – privatisation is wrong in school academies and it’s wrong in call centres.

“Think what could happen if public sector workers stood together. I hope that the TUC will tell the government that they will face unity over pay. We did it on pensions, we can do it on pay.”

Teachers are ready for a fight. Delegates held no illusions about the prospect of positive changes under Gordon Brown.

Serwotka later told a fringe meeting, “It is very easy to be anti-Blair. Many union leaders line up to show that they are. But very few are willing to speak against Gordon Brown.

“When you look at what is happening in the public sector, these are not policies pushed through by a reluctant chancellor.

“Brown told a TUC delegation I was on that every time the unions criticise the government they were helping the Tories.

“For PCS members it doesn’t feel better under Labour. Our members are facing attacks on pay, pensions, and over privatisation and redundancies.

“The unions are always told to wait, that things will get better. But all the talk of waiting demoralises and demobilises people.

“We need to wage a struggle of the like we have never seen before.

“The PCS has picked 1 May for a reason. It is workers’ day. But more importantly it is 48 hours before people go to the polls.

“We want people to ask why are PCS members striking. We want to cause Labour embarrassment.”

Martin Reed, a member of the NUT executive, proposed the motion on pay.

He told the conference, “This motion recognises that a high quality of education is the right of every child.

“We must stand up now against the imposition of a

2 percent below inflation deal, and also against plans for regional pay.”

Ken Muller, a teacher from Islington in north London, said, “Brown’s response to growing inequality is to freeze public sector pay.

“It is only by rank and file workers across unions taking action together that we can win.”

The mood surrounding Brown was tangibly different from last year’s conference, with very few teachers this time holding on to any hope of real change if he takes over from Blair.

Delegate Liam Conway said, “During Brown’s time as chancellor child poverty has risen, income tax for the lowest paid has gone up and corporation tax has gone down.

“We have to launch the offensive against the right wing Labour government.”

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