Teachers could be heading for a national strike ballot over pay. Delegates at the NUT union conference in Brighton last weekend passed a motion calling on the union to launch a “vigorous campaign” over pay.
The conference also saw important decisions about fighting racism and school funding cuts.
The union has demanded a 5 percent pay rise, following years of real-terms pay cuts.
Lisa Murray from Lewes Eastbourne said, “Talking about it is not enough. Members want action.”
Her school is among a group of seven east Sussex schools where workers are balloting for strikes in a local dispute over pay.
Paul is a teacher in Tower Hamlets, east London. “Pay is the issue that’s coming into the centre stage,” he told Socialist Worker.
“The motion we passed calls for regional reps’ briefings in every association.
“If activists fight to make these big, it will add to the pressure on the union leaders to move to a national ballot.”
Rob is a sixth form teacher in Newham, east London. “We’ve reached a breaking point,” he told Socialist Worker. “I know teachers who say, ‘I won’t be here in a couple of years’ time’.
“They know they won’t be able to afford to stay in London.”
Many teachers stressed that the fight over pay can’t be separated from the battle against school funding cuts. If pay rises aren’t funded, the money will be taken from elsewhere.
There was widespread agreement that winning over pay would take a substantial campaign.
Lisa, a teacher in Chesterfield, told Socialist Worker, “There’s a feeling that one day’s worth of action isn’t enough. The UCU university strikes have shown that people are confident to take action if they believe the union has a genuine strategy to win.”
Jill from Bradford agreed. “One-day strikes are not the way to go,” she told Socialist Worker. “You’ve got to do it as a sustained campaign.”
The motion also called for an end to performance-related pay and a return to national pay bargaining.
Workers passed an amendment that commits the union to “a ballot of all members for strike action, if our demands are not met, at the earliest opportunity in the 2018/19 academic year”.
And delegates also passed a motion on Monday instructing the union to fight over teachers’ pay in Wales.
Teachers unanimously passed an amendment that committed the union to “ballot NEU members in Wales for action up to and including strike action if deemed necessary”.
Delegates to the NASUWT teachers’ union conference in Birmingham unanimously passed a motion condemning the pay cap.
It backed ballots for strikes if the Tories fail to agree to “substantial, above-inflation and across the board pay increases next year”.
Pay strikes loom in East Sussex schools
NEU union members across seven East Sussex schools are balloting for pay strikes. They are demanding the 2 percent rise that teachers in the rest of Sussex have received but that East Sussex County Council has so far refused to grant.
Phil Clarke is in one of the schools balloting for action. He told the NUT conference, “We’ve got a real chance of winning it. The worst result we got in our indicative ballots was a 97 percent yes vote on an 80 percent turnout.
Phil told a Socialist Teachers’ Alliance fringe meeting at the conference, “On average it would cost £1,700 per school for the entire year to meet our pay claim. This can be afforded. These arguments have really got traction.”
If workers vote for strikes, the first walkouts could take place later this month.
Fiasco as Tories refuse West London academy plan
The Department for Education (DfE) has refused an application for a west London school to form a Multi-Academy Trust (MAT) with an academy. The news was leaked to Hank Roberts, an anti-academy campaigner and NEU union activist in Brent.
It follows strikes by NEU members at The Village School against the MAT proposal.
Jenny Cooper, joint NEU rep at the school, told Socialist Worker, “Teachers were so happy when they heard the news. I think there’s a chance that we could stop this now.”
The plan would have seen The Village School form a MAT with Woodfield Academy. Union members and parents resisted the plan because they feared the impact on children, and workers’ conditions.
“If there’s a new application, we will argue that there should be a new consultation,” said Jenny. “And we could ballot for strikes again.”