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.

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