School workers in the NEU union have voted by 86 percent on a 60 percent turnout in favour of a pay deal to end their dispute. This is disappointing of course, but I believe it was totally right to campaign for rejection.
The 5 percent last year and 6.5 percent this year was more than the government originally wanted but is still well below inflation—a pay cut.
The postal re-ballot, which has seen 95 percent on a 53 percent turnout vote for more strikes, proves the mood was there and possibilities were open.
Throughout our period of strikes, there has been an underestimation by the NEU leadership of the amount of action our members would be prepared to take. This led to a demobilising effect after conference 2023.
However, it is important that members understand that the eight days of action That they took did move the government and forced them to accept the recommendation of the pay review body.
Members should feel that their action has made a difference, and while not winning an outright victory, action has won them considerably more than they would have won had they not fought.
We have proved that strikes can change the outcome of political decisions. This is important to ram home because in all fights, confidence is key.
And something else has come out of the current situation. There are small beginnings of an independent layer of activists within the union who wish now to continue to work together to foster the kind of rank and file networks we will need in future battles.
At the beginning of the e-ballot, the newly formed Educators Say No held a 1,000-strong Zoom meeting—with many others unable to join.
We’ve also started to pull together networks of activists who understand the need for independent organisation within the union.
The new NEU general secretary, Daniel Kebede, has said that the wider fight is not over, and that we will now enter a period of political campaigning, looking to ballot again should the pay review body suggest another below-inflation pay rise.
All activists must now commit to this campaigning work. We must continue to organise in schools we must fight against redundancies and cuts calling strikes and mobilising members. In this way, we will build on the confidence of members and be better placed to win future ballots and strikes.
The Workers Summit in September will be a key event with Educators Say No hosting a hybrid session in order to discuss the formalisation of the network and decide on future actions.
On Saturday 23 September a Workers’ Summit is meeting in-person in London around the slogan, “Link the fights, reject bad deals, fight to win!”
Organisers describe it as “an afternoon for grassroots collaboration”. It was initiated by Lambeth and Hackney NEU, NHS Workers Say No and Strike Map. It’s already backed by 70 trade union branches and trades councils.
The summit will host discussion but can also strengthen the networks of resistance at the base of the unions.
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