NEU Left Pay Bulletin (19-07-22)

The June TUC demo showed a growing mood of resistance- now let’s build for strikes

Organise to strike back against this pay cut

The government has declared war on us and millions of others. It wants to slash our living standards by imposing below inflation pay rises.

The money is there for all of us to have proper pay rises. It’s just in the wrong hands and heading into the wrong pockets. Profits for big business are at record levels. In the last year the number of billionaires in Britain hit the highest level ever.

We have to fight and strike to defend our living standards.

The teachers’ pay award is, as NEU joint general secretary Kevin Courtney said “the biggest real terms pay cut for experienced teachers” in decades.

The 5 percent award is in reality a 7 percent real terms pay cut given inflation hitting 12 percent – once housing costs are included. Even for new teachers the 8.9 percent – which no current teacher will get- is still a 3 percent real terms pay cut.

And this comes on top of the 20 percent real terms pay cut teachers have suffered in the last decade. Enough is enough.

Schools will not even get the money to fund these miserable pay awards- with per pupil funding only rising by 1.9 percent. This will inevitably see bigger cuts in schools, more pressure to use unqualified staff, cutbacks on vital educational areas, a narrowing of the curriculum and increased staff workload.

All this will worsen the recruitment and retention crisis in teaching- which already sees almost a third of teachers quit the job within five years.

The result will be to further damage the lives and education of children who have already suffered during the Covid lockdowns.

That’s why it is absolutely right that the NEU is now set to conduct a national strike ballot in the autumn. Other teaching unions look set to join a ballot. 

The heads’ ASCL union denounced the government pay award and its general secretary Geoff Barton says it will be “consulting our members to see whether they wish to take industrial action in response to this decision.

“This pay award is wholly inadequate and represents the worst of all worlds – a substantial real-terms pay cut for the majority of teachers which will worsen teacher shortages, and no additional money for schools to afford the cost of the award thereby exacerbating the dire financial situation they face because of rising costs.”

We need to throw everything into organising to win the pay ballot once schools return in September.

We won’t be fighting alone. More rail strikes have been announced, and BT workers are set to strike too.

The CWU this week won a 97 percent yes vote on a 77 percent turn out for strikes against pay cuts and in September the PCS civil servants’ union will be balloting too.

Work to be done.

In the first week of September the NEU will hold a national zoom call for reps, and is calling every district to hold pay briefings and rallies, and school meetings at the start of September.

On Saturday 24 September a preliminary internal NEU email ballot will start- to ensure that we mobilise, but crucially to check postal and school addresses with members.

This is to ensure members get the ballot paper sent the right address in the full strike ballot in October- under anti-union laws that ballot has to be a postal one to home addresses.

Every activist in the union has now to single-mindedly focus on working to build the turn outs so we beat the legal ballot thresholds and are able to strike to defend living standards.

Call NEU Left meetings now

NEU Left members in every area should be focussing on helping to ensure that the campaign to win the ballot happens everywhere.

In schools let’s see how many playground meetings saying “Ready to strike” we can get on the inset days at the start of September-and share pictures to start to create a mood across the country.

We need detailed action plans in every district to ensure the biggest turn out in the ballots. We will share some of the plans made in some districts already on this website soon- as examples others may wish to adapt.

We also need to organise politically to ensure the best strategies for organising and winning the ballot are carried into every district and into every part of the country, and into as many schools as possible.

We have to reach beyond existing activists, put a call out for new reps, ballot or strike captains in every school in your area and expand the network of people fighting to deliver the ballot- a bit like we did at times during the Covid lockdowns.

None of this will happen automatically though. The NEU Left has step up and play its part.

In every part of England and Wales NEU Left members should set up meetings now for the very start of September- to plan how they can help drive the kind of campaign needed into every school and district in their area.

Get the date set now for your NEU Left meeting and towards the end of August start fighting not just for existing NEU Left members in your area but new people to come and join us in helping fight to win the ballot.

We need a growing army of activists in every part of the country to go into battle to help ensure we can strike back against this government- whoever is leading it by September.

Taking to the streets (NEU Left bulletin 14-07-22)

NEU members with their banners took to the streets last Saturday to join three vitally important protests.

200,000 plus at Durham miners gala

NEU President Daniel Kebede was among NEU members joining last Saturday’s impressive Gala in Durham
Trade unionists out in force in Durham last Saturday

Durham was a union city last weekend as huge numbers of trade unionists turned out for the annual miners’ gala- one of the largest showings for many years. The mood was driven by anger at the cost of living crisis- which saw delegations from across the country and across all major unions join the march and rally. Keynote speaker the RMT’s Mick Lynch got a rousing reception when he spoke of the rail strikes and the need for everyone to fight back. More rail strikes have now been announced- by both RMT and ASLEF members for the next couple of weeks. There are possible strikes in BT coming following their CWU union’s successful ballot, and a postal workers’ ballot by the CWU will report soon. The PCS civil servants’ union has announced a national strike ballot in September. In the NEU we will be balloting on pay in the autumn term too- and the NASWUT teachers’ union have said they may do the same. Let’s make sure this is a hot autumn for whoever the new Tory leader is- and use the power of our class on the streets and on the picket line to defend all our living standards.

Union banners join thousands strong Trans Pride

NEU banners and other trade unionists joined last Saturday’s Trans Pride march in London
Over 15,000 people joined the Trans Pride march

Over 15,000 people joined the Trans Pride march in London last Saturday, including a good number of trade union delegations with banners- especially NEU banners. The march was even more important as Tory leadership contenders try to outdo each other in whipping up transphobia in the name of waging their “culture wars”. Trans rights are human rights was the slogan echoing round the march- one which we will have to fight to make a reality against the Tory offensive.

Standing up for abortion rights

Hundreds of people joined a rally in defence of abortion rights in London last Saturday too.

The fight to defend abortion rights is crucial in the wake of the shocking attack launched in the US. This is the biggest attack on women’s rights for many years- and there needs to be resistance- and not just in the US. Everywhere we should rally behind the slogan “a woman’s right to choose”.

Pay strategy discussion bulletin 1 (03-07-22)

The cost of living crisis and fighting over pay is at the top of the agenda in the months ahead. It is vital that reps and activists talk to members in schools, discuss and debate the strategy and tactics we need to successfully mobilise and win.

The NEU Left wants to play a part in facilitating that discussion. We begin with an opinion piece putting a case for a shift in the current approach. This is not an NEU Left “position” but a stimulus for discussion and debate. There are good arguments for other approaches too.

We would welcome contributions to this discussion and will share them on this blog. If you wish to add to the discussion please email your contribution to [email protected] (similar length to the piece below) and we will share them. But above all talk to activists in your area and members in schools- and let’s make sure their voices shape the union’s approach to this crucial question.

Time to press the accelerator in pay fight?

Has the mood seen around the RMT strikes changed how we should think about a pay ballot?

by Paul McGarr, Tower Hamlets

Every NEU activist knows it is right to prepare to fight on pay. The union nationally has done a good job, as have local officers, reps and activists since NEU conference at Easter voted to build towards a pay ballot.

Getting ballot ready has become a theme across the union- though there is still a huge amount of work to be done.

Under current plans we would start an indicative national ballot in October. 

If that was good enough in terms of turn out and backing for action, we would then move to a formal postal strike ballot. This would probably push any prospect of actually striking well into  the new year.

That was a good plan when we debated building a pay fight at conference- but is it still the best plan now?

The cost of living crisis has accelerated and is hurting now- as inflation rockets into double figures. It will be hurting even more in September and October.

It is in September that the government is set to impose a two year pay deal that will further cut real pay for almost all teachers.

The pace of the attack on living standards has accelerated and deepened – so do we need to up the pace and depth of our response?

The mood for a fight has also been transformed by the new spirit of struggle in the air.

The TUC demo in June lifted the mood. The RMT rail strikes and the support they got across the movement- and from the wider public- has had a significant impact too.

Now the CWU’s incredibly successful BT strike ballot votes, and more in the pipeline in Royal Mail have added to the mood of resistances.

Unite the union has been calling and winning ballots and strikes on pay in a range of industries and areas- many gaining significant pay rises too.

The PCS civil servants are now set to ballot on national strikes in September.

In education the NASUWT union has also indicated it is considering some form of action ballot in the autumn too.

In schools many members do not understand in this climate why we have to have two national ballots and wait until next year before we could strike back on pay. 

Certainly when I have tried to explain this to members in recent days it has simply led to bemused looks and questions about why can’t we just ballot in the autumn and strike when we need to- which is soon. I have not found a member at school in the last few weeks who understands why we instead have to have two national ballots and wait til next year before taking action.

There is now, surely, a strong case for making the indicative survey required under union rules a much quicker e-poll of some kind in September and, if we then judge the mood is right, making the October vote a full national action ballot so we can be ready to strike in the autumn term.

Of course there are risks- which is why we had the slower original plan. It is a big ask to deliver the 50% plus turn out needed to win  an action ballot- and our own internal recent ballots show there is a lot of work to do.

On the other hand a loud visible campaign in the autumn which gets lots of media coverage can be a crucial in driving up turn out and reaching parts of the membership we may not otherwise get to and so boost turn out.

If we did this it would mean the whole union from top to bottom going into a sharply focussed, single minded and energetic drive aimed at winning a ballot- half measures would be no good.

It would means throwing the entire resources of the national union at preparing to win a ballot: getting members postal addresses sorted, pushing for school, school gate or playground meetings, a full blooded social media and e-campaign, pumping out materials from flags to stickers, from leaflets to videos. But if the will is there we have the resources to do this.

Some times slow and patient organising is right, but there are times when it can miss the boat and there are also times where quick, loud and catching a mood is a better guarantee of getting the response we need.

It’s a judgment of course. But it is a discussion that we need to have seriously and urgently in the union. And it is a discussion that should be in the hands of reps and activists and not just left to those at the top of the union.

Reps and activists need to talk to members in schools, assess the mood and arguments and then let’s together debate and shape the right strategy now to take us forward and win on pay.

To add to the debate email contributions to: [email protected]