Socialist Worker

Fringe meetings at the NUT conference: anti-racism, Prevent, austerity, EU referendum....and more

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2497

NUT delegates say Refugees Welcome

NUT delegates say 'Refugees Welcome' (Pic: @StefanEalingNUT)


Hundreds of delegates came to fringe meetings on fighting austerity, testing, racism and Islamophobia, and the EU referendum over the course of conference.

The Socialist Teachers Alliance hosted a fringe meeting entitled "Seize the moment" on Friday evening. Speakers and delegates stressed that changing times and a Tory crisis raised the potential to beat their attacks.

To applause, NUT general secretary Christine Blower said unions would "have to defy" the Trade Union Bill if it is passed into law. She said, "We don't win things by being timid."

Blower also said the bill and the government's white paper on education opened up the potential for building broader resistance. "There are probably people who never thought they would do things but are now thinking, we've got to do things," she said.

Junior doctor Yannis Goursoyannis won a standing ovation. He brought a letter of solidarity to the meeting supporting teachers in the fight to stop forced academies.

He said over 2,000 junior doctors had signed it "in the last couple of days".

Yannis said the imposition of the junior doctors' contracts meant "the government is showing its true face". He added, "The government is at its most divided - so let's stand together."

Delegates at the meeting chanted, "Doctors and teachers - unite and strike!".

Jean Evanson from Shrewsbury sixth form college told the meeting of the impact of government funding cuts. "Enrichment has gone," she said. "Class sizes have risen and risen. Now we're threatened with further cuts."

Defence

PCS union general secretary Mark Serwotka issued a rallying call to the meeting.

He said, "If the government attacks us all, what better defence is there than all taking industrial action at the same time? That's what we need to keep arguing for."

Serwotka said "we need coordinated, national action" but said unions could still "fight and win" individually. "Your fight against forced academies has victory written all over it," he said.

Around 130 people came to a Stand Up to Racism and Socialist Teachers Alliance meeting on Saturday. Sara Tomlinson from Lambeth, south London, spoke about how trade unionists have organised solidarity with refugees in Calais.

Nick O'Brien spoke out against the government's Islamophobic Prevent strategy. Weyman Bennett from Stand Up to Racism said, "The extremism is coming from the government." He added that there is weakness in the government, but that it is "weak and nasty".

Seventeen year old Rahmaan Mohammadi, a sixth form student from Luton, described how he had been targeted under Prevent after wearing a Palestine badge.

He said, "I'm from Luton and I'm a Muslim. And I am a radical. Without radicals we wouldn't have the vote. I'm proud to be a radical."

Rahmaan said police had visited him after teachers had reported him under the Prevent legislation. He said the impact of the "intimidation" had led to "paranoia" especially among his friends.

"I felt targeted because of my ethnicity," he said. "We, the radical extremists of this country, have to stand against Prevent."


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