Conversations are happening across Tower Hamlets to organise 30 June strikes. “I’ll phone these two schools and visit this one.”
“OK, I’ll phone the reps—and I know some teachers at this one where we don’t have a rep, so I can pop round there”.
“I am doing a meeting at this primary tomorrow, and I’ll get some people from my own school to phone these three schools.”
“What about this school here, who can contact them?”
That was the talk around one small table at last week’s NUT meeting in Tower Hamlets—organising to win the pension strike ballot.
Many of those volunteering to do the phoning were not branch officers or committee members, but school reps and rank and file activists.
Questions are thrown up. “Is it OK to phone reps at home or on mobiles?”
“Yes, we did that during our recent cuts strike ballot and everyone was pleased to be called by their local union.”
“Would it be OK to just walk into the staffroom if we don’t have a rep and ask to speak to people?” “Why not!”
School by school, the organising is going on, from ensuring school meetings are happening to encouraging reps to go round checking who has had ballot papers—and how many yes votes they reckon they have so far.
At six more tables, similar discussions were going on.
ATL members joined with NUT members in united organising after we had heard from the local secretaries of the NUT, ATL and Unison to kick off the meeting.
The ATL secretary—in a union which has never held a national strike—mused in discussions, “I think we need a general strike.”
The sense was of a war room—with detailed battle plans being put into practice.
Phone numbers and emails were exchanged between reps and activists in each area.
Mailings, leaflets, emails and all the rest are flowing too—but there is nothing better than direct contact, a conversation. That was a lesson we learned from our recent united strike with Unison over cuts in Tower Hamlets.
We reckon at least 45 schools—half—have already held meetings. Over the next week we aim to push that up higher. Increasingly, reps are gaining confidence to do the meetings in their own school.
While the immediate priority is winning the ballot, the way we’re organising points to how we can shape the battle that will follow.
Activists are talking about visiting local workplaces to ask for people to join us on picket lines on 30 June.
We are discussing strikers marching around to gather up people—teachers, lecturers, civil servants—to travel down to the central London demo planned for the day.
We hope the local networks forged can play a role beyond the strike itself.
Just 23 school days from Monday until 30 June—time for battle stations everywhere.
The NUT ballot ends on 14 June