This year’s NUT union conference was watched closely from across the working class movement, as teachers backed more strikes to stop the Tories’ assault on pensions.
Delegates voted to instruct the union leadership to seek to organise another national strike in June (see Teachers’ union conference backs June strike over pensions).
The key issue of the conference was pensions. Yet the mood among teachers was one of rage at the Tories’ entire agenda. And there was a clear willingness to fight the onslaught on conditions, pay and state education.
Laura Jane Fisher, a delegate from Wakefield, said that Tory attacks on education were part of a fundamental war on workers.
“This government wants to destroy the unions,” she said. “We are the largest teaching union—we should act as the leading light.”
One of the most heated sessions was on the subject of Ofsted, the hated schools inspectorate (see ‘We have to go on the offensive against Ofsted’).
Delegates overwhelmingly passed a motion calling on the union to look towards balloting for strikes across whole local authority areas in opposition to Ofsted inspections.
They also asked the union to consider a boycott campaign. More calls for action came as delegates voted to support strikes to defend pay.
They called on the union leadership to ballot for national strikes in response to any specific attacks on pay from the government.
Teachers pointed out that moves to introduce local pay in place of existing national pay scales were part of the Tories’ attempts to reshape education.
Gawain Little described it as “a necessary step towards the fragmentation and privatisation of education—the complete destruction of state education.”
The key debate that ran through every session was how to fight. There was a thirst for a plan to win and a sense that workers needed to fight now.
John Whealey from Liverpool said, “We already have national ballots so we should hang onto a national strategy. I’m a member of the National Union of Teachers, not the Local Union of Teachers.”
There was some frustration with the lack of lead given from the union’s national executive committee. Many were angry that the union had called a London strike for 28 March instead of a national one.
Many delegates hoped that the conference would produce a clear calendar of strikes to fight to drive back the Tory onslaught. Yet the conference passed a series of important calls for action.
Every member must organise to develop these quickly into a concrete programme of action that can win.
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