Teachers at the NUT union conference in Liverpool have voted narrowly against striking on 26 June.
That’s the day that Tory chancellor George Osborne will unveil yet more attacks on workers in his spending review. The civil service PCS union has called for unions to strike together on the day.
Delegates to NUT conference discussed how to resist these attacks in a heated debate yesterday, Saturday.
One amendment called on the union’s national executive committee (NEC) to call “a one-day strike on 26 June and to seek to co-ordinate that action with other trade unions”.
Anne Lemon from the NEC backed the amendment. “If a million people were on strike on 26 June, would it strengthen or weaken the fight against Michael Gove?” she asked. “It would have a real resonance with everyone under attack and give inspiration to others.”
Some speakers against the amendment reflected pessimism about the strength of the union’s strategy and a lack of confidence.
They claimed that an NUT strike on 26 June would put a plan for joint industrial action with the NASUWT union at risk. This is set to begin with a regional strike by both unions in the north west of England on 27 June.
Aisling Macsweeney, from east London, said that an NUT strike on 26 June would make the union look “weak” if the NASUWT wasn’t on strike too.
But Doug Morgan, from Birmingham, said that if it were true that the NASUWT would withdraw from its joint strategy with the NUT then “our unity with them is pretty fragile”.
He won applause when he said, “This is not about ditching that strategy, it’s about ramping up the pressure. If we’re standing up for our kids then that means standing up for their future conditions.”
Sheila Caffrey, from Bristol, added, “We all agree that unity is good – to maximise that unity we should start with a national strike. We can lead the way like we did in the pensions dispute.”
A majority of NEC members opposed the amendment. Yet up to 40 percent of delegates backed it nonetheless. And delegates who talked about the need to unite as a class against the Tories won loud applause on conference floor.
Delegates did pass an amendment instructing the NEC to “seek to involve other unions in joint strike action, both teaching and non-teaching”. It called on the union leadership to organise further strikes and activities to strengthen the campaign.
Speaking after the debate Tony Dabb, from Gateshead, told Socialist Worker, “It’s patronising to say that the NASUWT would walk away from strikes if we struck on 26 June.
“If we held a national strike it would put pressure on other union leaders to call more action. I think there’s a bit of conservatism among the leadership that isn’t reflected among the members.
“In Gateshead people are asking, why aren’t we going out on strike?”
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