Schools across the country are buzzing with discussions about the teachers’ strike due to take place on Thursday of this week.
Normally when teachers meet outside school, the conversation is about workload and having no life. But not any more – at the moment all the talk is about strike action.
I have attended over half a dozen school meetings in the last fortnight, as well as a very successful reps and activists meeting.
I know from these meetings that many young teachers are enthusiastic about the action – and that older teachers are being inspired by this new energy.
It is 21 years since the last national teachers strike and consequently the majority of teachers have no experience of taking strike action.
But they are organising themselves in an unprecedented way – electing reps, setting up NUT union meetings and recruiting more union members.
Over 45 marches and rallies have been organised up and down the country. By all accounts these will be big, involving not just teachers, but also striking college lecturers and civil service workers.
Some teachers report that their students will come to the rallies to show their solidarity.
This enthusiasm cannot be allowed to go to waste. Our national NUT union conference at Easter voted to hold a further ballot for discontinuous action, linking the issue of pay to those of workload and class sizes.
If we are going to break Gordon Brown’s pay freeze, we have to show the government we are serious. That means we must not stop after 24 April.
We should write to our MPs, as the national union recommends. We should back the TUC’s lobby of parliament on 9 June. But we also need to start the ballot for discontinuous action as soon as possible this term.
People should pass motions at their next school or association meetings demanding that the ballot and further action takes place this term. These motions should be used to lobby relevant regional national executive members before the next national executive meeting in mid May.
Many schools have passed such motions at union meetings already. After 24 April all schools need to organise union meetings to do the same.
There is an opportunity here for our industrial action to mark the start of a united fightback by public sector workers against pay cuts.
We have the power to force the government to stop making us pay for the crisis it has presided over. But to do that, 24 April has to be just the start of an ongoing united campaign.