Now is the time to force this regime to honour pay and funding pledges
The fight is on. Our union will, early in the new year, launch an indicative survey- online ballot – on a fight for the pay every educator deserves and the funding our schools need.
Every activist must get 100 percent behind this, and mobilise to deliver a thumping majority on a turnout that helps prepare for the battle to beat Johnson and his venal regime.
Back in 2019 the government pledged that by September 2022 teachers would start on a minimum £30,000 salary. Instead they have imposed yet more pay cuts, through freezes and below inflation pay awards.
This month the Department for Education will publish its “remit” for teachers pay next year to the School Teachers Review Board – the quango that decides teachers’ pay. It will look to hold pay down again. We should say loud and clear that we will not accept this and that we intend to mobilise, campaign and, if needed, strike to force the government to meet its commitment.
An 8% rise next year and another 8% the following would see the £30,000 starting salary promise met. And that rise should be for all teachers- we all need a proper pay rise.
With inflation rising it would be a modest, but much needed, move towards restoring the cuts in living standards educators have suffered over the last decade. And a pay rise for school teachers must be matched by the same for supply and support staff and college educators too.
Alongside the fight for pay we must demand more than an 8% annual rise in school and college funds too – to ensure schools can pay staff without cutting jobs and other vital aspects of education.
Last month the Institute for Fiscal Studies reported that the last decade had seen cuts to education funding “without precedent in postwar UK history”. From 2009 to 2019 per-pupil spending in schools has suffered a 9% real terms cuts- and 14% for colleges. And while all schools have been hit, the IFS found that schools serving the most disadvantaged areas had been hit hardest too. So much for this government’s talk of “levelling up.” Even the planned increase to school funding now in the pipeline will do no more than restore funding to what it was in 2010.
Schools desperately need more funding as they struggle to cope with the continuing cost of the pandemic. And all educators need a pay rise – you can’t deliver quality education without quality, and decently paid, educators .
Teacher recruitment figures are plummeting to crisis levels- and no wonder as our living standards go down year after year and workload goes up and up, driven by cuts and the Imperial Troopers of Ofsted.
Battle stations- time to act
Our joint general secretary Kevin Courtney has circulated an excellent short video making the case for pay and funding increases. We should ensure it gets to every educator. “Grinch” themed protests are planned before Xmas already in London and Coventry— let’s build more of these.
The first week of the new year will see a national all-members Zoom- like we had last January at the height of the pandemic when we shut schools to save lives. And every branch or district will be pushed by the union – rightly – to hold reps briefings and other rallies before the indicative survey is launched around 14 January.
We will need meetings in every school as the ballot starts to ensure the arguments are clear, and the turn out is driven up. No hesitation. no quibbling – every activist must throw all our energy into mobilising members, pushing the arguments, building the networks that can delver a big turnout.
We call on all NEU Left members to meet in their areas as soon as possible- and certainly before the 14 January- to organise and ensure their area has the best possible plan for the ballot and to reach into every school.
The indicative pay ballot should run in tandem with the fight on workload and the union’s excellent Value Eduction, Value Educators campaign. Both can build organisation in schools which can push back on workload and can then push the government to retreat on pay and funding.
Johnson is a liar- but if we organise and act we can force him to honour his pledges and begin to restore decent pay for all educators and proper funding for all schools.
Now is the time.
Newham strikes back against academisation threat
NEU members at Newham Sixth Form College in east London recently took their first day of strike action in a campaign against academisation, bad management practices and workload.
Around 40 teachers joined the picket line following a strong ballot turnout of 78 percent, with 97 percent in favour. They were joined by local support from both the NEU and the community, as well as NEU President Daniel Kebede and a delegation from neighbouring Redbridge NEU. Membership of the NEU at the college has also increased by 11 members since the closing of the ballot.
NEU Rep Rob Behan: “We’re very thankful to have all of this support. It really shows members that our fight is being taken seriously. Our members are also really grateful for the messages of solidarity that have come in via email and through social media. It’s given us real strength and shows we’re not alone”.
Talks are continuing between the NEU and the college management, ahead of two further strike days that were set for 8th and 9th December.
Solidarity with the university strikes
Members of the University and College Union in 58 universities across the UK have just completed three days of strikes in two linked disputes.
The fight over cuts to the USS pension scheme dates back to 2011, while the Four Fights (workloads, equalities pay gaps, casualisation and pay) also represents unfinished business, with our last national action cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic.
This dispute proves that strike ballots can be won even in circumstances where many members are working from home.
Contrary to some expectations, students have enthusiastically supported our action.
New young members have boosted our picket lines, with older members sometimes reluctant to travel to their workplace for the first time in many months.
We have developed new hybrid ways of organising – with meetings being held both in-person and online simultaneously. This helps to involve members who otherwise find it hard to get involved, such as those who are disabled or with care responsibilities.
A further 42 branches did not reach the required 50% turnout threshold required by the anti-union laws. Their re-ballots will finish in mid-January. We look forward to a bigger, more extensive and sustained wave of strikes in order to win our demands.
Roddy Slorach (Branch secretary, Imperial College, London UCU)