The key debate at this year's NUT union conference was how to take on the Tories.
Education secretary Michael Gove is attacking teachers’ pay, pensions and conditions. He wants to privatise schools and drive education back to when working class children were written off as failures.
In a heated debate teachers voted narrowly against striking on 26 June.
That’s the day that Tory chancellor George Osborne will unveil more attacks on workers in his spending review. It’s also the day the civil service PCS union has called for unions to strike together.
One amendment called on the union’s national executive committee (NEC) to call “a one-day strike on 26 June and to seek to co-ordinate that action with other trade unions”.
Anne Lemon from the NEC backed the amendment. “If a million people were on strike on 26 June it would have a real resonance with everyone under attack and give inspiration to others.”
Some speakers against the amendment reflected pessimism about the strength of the union’s strategy and a lack of confidence.
They claimed that an NUT strike on 26 June would undermine a plan for joint industrial action with the NASUWT union. This is set to begin with a regional strike by both unions in the north west of England on 27 June.
But Doug Morgan from Birmingham was applauded when he said, “This is not about ditching that strategy, it’s about ramping up the pressure.
“If we’re standing up for our kids then that means standing up for their future conditions.”
A majority of NEC members opposed the amendment. Yet up to 40 percent of delegates backed it. Those who talked about the need to unite as a class against the Tories won loud applause on conference floor.
Delegates did pass an amendment instructing the NEC to “seek to involve other unions in joint strike action, both teaching and non-teaching”.
It called on the union leadership to organise further strikes and activities to strengthen the campaign.
Oktay Sahbaz, a teacher from Hackney told Socialist Worker, “I wanted to have a national strike on 26 June.
“Now we have to organise rallies and get meetings called in schools. We need to get parents involved and build a big alliance of people to defend education.”
In Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds teachers are discussing organising demonstrations to the rallies on 27 June called by the unions.
Ivan Wels, joint divisional secretary of Nottinghamshire NUT, said, “We’re thinking of organising a coach to take people to the protest and rally in Leeds. Even though we won’t be on strike we want to show solidarity.”
Alasdair Smith, a teacher in London, told Socialist Worker.
“When Michael Gove announces his plans to attack teachers’ pay this month it could spark a lot of anger.
“If teachers feel they can pull off walkouts in response that would be good.
“We need to create a mood of resistance.”
Huge vote against Ofsted
The Conference opened with a speech from Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS union. He said bankers’ bonuses were “absolute proof” that there is money to pay for jobs and services.
Delegates applauded as he called for a pay rise for all workers, an end to job cuts, a cap on rents and nationalising the banks. He denounced the “despots” who are “wrecking our education system”.
Delegates called on the union to “campaign for the removal of Michael Gove as secretary of state”.
The motion calling for the abolition of Ofsted was passed overwhelmingly. It committed the union to investigate how, “the union can take action against Ofsted including a boycott”.
Teaching unions in Northern Ireland held a successful boycott of inspections last year.
Conference passed motions calling on the union to work towards developing a National Campaign for Education and against Gove’s new curriculum.
Delegates called on the union to coordinate strikes against academies and free schools.
They also called on the union to organise a conference for supply teachers this year.