Teachers in the NUT union are beginning a crucial battle in their fight for higher pay.
The NUT executive has voted unanimously to hold a ballot for national, discontinuous strike action against their below-inflation three-year pay offer.
Teachers have been offered a pay “rise” of 2.45 percent for this year, and 2.3 percent for the following two years.
At a time when the official CPI rate of inflation has risen to 4.7 percent – and RPI is 4.8 percent – the offer is below inflation by any measure. And it is looking worse by the week.
The attack on teachers’ pay is part of a conscious attempt by Gordon Brown to force workers to pay for the recession.
Brown is trying to force a below-inflation pay limit across the public sector. Private sector bosses are following suit.
But trying to take on several groups of workers at the same time could prove to be his mistake.
Already teachers in the NUT, civil service workers in the PCS union and further education lecturers in the UCU union have taken joint strike action against the pay freeze.
Up to half a million workers struck together on 24 April – giving confidence and inspiration to millions that it is possible to fight together to beat these attacks.
We need more united action to win. There is a widespread mood among workers for coordinated strike action.
Nick Grant, a member of the NUT executive, spoke to Socialist Worker in a personal capacity. “As we sink into recession we have to make sure that we respond as a class and not as individual sectors,” he said.
“Workers across the whole public sector have to take action together – and we should fight for the TUC to call its day of action over pay on the same day.”
Teachers now need to prepare to build a big yes vote in the ballot – organising union and school meetings to discuss the pay fight, inviting workers from other unions in to talk about coordinated action and distributing campaign materials.
They need to make sure that schools with no union rep or weaker union organisation are supported.
Coordinated strike action involving hundreds of thousands of workers in the autumn can launch a campaign with the momentum to pull in other groups of workers who are facing the same attacks – and smash Brown’s pay freeze.
The ballot begins on 6 October and ends on 3 November. For campaigning materials go to » www.teachers.org.uk