Tens of thousands of angry school workers joined the TUC demonstration in London on 26 March. It transformed the feeling about the possibility of resisting the cuts. This will be reflected at the NUT teachers’ union annual conference this weekend.
A storm has rained down on our public services, benefits and pensions since last July.
It is especially brutal on the young, old, disabled and poor. Women of all ages will be disproportionately hit.
Many local campaigns are linking together. But a national trade union response has been slow to emerge.
This is affected by the Labour Party’s acceptance of some cuts and the fear amongst some that a militant resistance to the cuts could cause an electoral embarrassment for the party.
Calls for a general strike have been popular, but arise out of fear of job losses and the destruction of services, rather than confidence to fight back.
26 March changed that.
There is now a more positive belief that we have the collective power to challenge the Tories.
The Royal College of Nurses’ vote of no confidence in Health Minister Andrew Lansley is one example of this.
The key decision at NUT conference will be on a national ballot for discontinuous strikes over pensions.
The national executive agreed unanimously last November to recommend a ballot for industrial action against a 50 percent increase in our pensions contributions.
The revised Teachers Pension Scheme, which is not in deficit or crisis, also proposes a later retirement date with a lower pension pay-out.
The ATL and UCU are with us, as are the civil service workers in the PCS. We now need NASUWT to commit to coordinated action when its conference starts. We are for a first strike on 30 June.
We can do this. The UCU national strike on 24 March was solid. Strikes against job cuts by NUT members across Camden and Tower Hamlets on 30 March and the continuing action at Rawmarsh School in Rotherham, are success stories.
Conference will also debate the government’s economic policies, academies, testing, the curriculum, workload, Islamophobia and international solidarity.
We need to challenge David Cameron’s big society con and his lie that we are all in it together. Cameron belongs to a “very little society”—of millionaires who do not use the public services they are slashing.
It is vital that we learn the lessons from the Thatcher era.
We cannot allow any group of workers to fight alone, as the National Union of Mineworkers did from 1984-5.
Despite the anti-trade union laws, we have to reinvigorate our slogan, “An injury to one is an injury to all”.
It was social protest that ended Thatcher’s reign in 1990. She had continued to promote the poll tax when only 2 percent of voters favoured it. Mass strikes and social protests together can bring down this government—and the NUT needs to be at the centre of them.
With 6.5 million members, the TUC is the biggest voluntary organisation in the country. It is built on the socialist idea of supporting fellow workers in need. That is the big society that we should be fighting for.
A strike on 30 June will be an important milestone. But it will have to be followed by general strikes and a vibrant response on our streets and in our communities. Cameron’s “very little society” deserves to be thrown into the dustbin of history.