Teachers in the NUT and NASUWT unions will begin industrial action over pensions, pay and conditions from 26 September. They will refuse to carry out some contractual duties.
The NUT says that, where management don’t accept the action or victimise members, it will encourage strikes. This follows overwhelming votes for action by NUT members.
Some 82.5 percent backed strikes and over 91 percent action short of a strike in a recent ballot. The ballot over pay and conditions was held to broaden a dispute over pensions.
There is deep anger in schools and the action short of a strike opens up space for struggle that activists must make the most of. And the issues behind the action are important. But there are serious problems with the NUT’s strategy.
The union didn’t join strikes over pensions in June—despite delegates to the NUT’s annual conference backing a walkout. Union leaders said they were building for joint national strikes with the NASUWT this autumn.
The NUT’s national executive agreed on Friday of last week to “approach the NASUWT with a view to moving to a programme of discontinuous strike action later this term”. But the union’s press release on Monday did not mention this.
Many teachers will be bitterly disappointed. They will welcome unity with the NASUWT—but not if it means continually postponing action.
The NUT leadership also seems to have moved away from trying to coordinate walkouts with other unions. And the campaign over workload could be used as an alternative to national strikes over pay and pensions.
The action short of a strike is problematic. Management will try to victimise teachers in schools where union organisation is likely to be weaker.
These schools might be asked to take action alone. Yet national action that could close most schools would bolster them and have more political impact.
Teachers in groups of schools can try to coordinate action. Other teachers can build solidarity with them—and all can march on 20 October. But teachers should also keep the pressure on union leaders to call the strikes that workers voted for.