By Paul McGarr, NEU member in east London
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Teachers must push for a new pay battle

Labour offering nothing to schools should trigger a swift strike ballot
Issue 2894

Teachers’ marching in central London in July (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Teachers in the NEU union in England and Wales will start a consultative ballot this weekend, lasting until 28 March, on taking national industrial action over funding and pay. The NEU conference meets the next week from 3 April. If the ballot is successful it will decide on whether to move to a formal strike ballot.

Every activist in the NEU must throw themselves into ensuring the indicative ballot is won with the highest possible turn out. The union will also trigger a parallel indicative ballot of support staff members once the employers’ pay offer for local government is announced.

Support staff are covered by local government negotiations with Unison, GMB and Unite unions also at the table. Last week over 300 NEU activists met in an online organising meeting called by several local districts to discuss how best to win the ballots. And this Thursday the NEU is holding an official all members national Zoom meeting to push the arguments for a Yes vote.

The government’s autumn budget means that if educators do not fight then schools face an avalanche of funding cuts. This will damage already savaged educational provision, especially for the most vulnerable students. Current spending plans point to at best a 1 percent pay rise for teachers from September—another real terms pay cut.

This would claw back half the 6.5 percent teachers got last year after national strikes. Last year’s settlement was not good enough, which was why 15 percent of members rightly rejected the union leaders’ advice to accept. And it’s why hundreds got involved with the Educators Say Now grassroots network.

If the ballot is successful there will be a debate on how quickly to ballot for strikes and on the pattern and tempo of any action. Some will argue to hold off until we see the outcome of a general election later this year.

But with Labour offering nothing to schools a successful indicative should trigger a swift strike ballot and significant action this school year. Then we should announce dates quickly for hard-hitting action for new school year in September, regardless of the election.

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