NEU Left Bulletin (31-10-22)

Ballot is underway

Get the votes in to win strike ballots

It’s on. Strike ballot forms have been landing on doormats over the weekend and as we go back to school this week.

The fight is now to ensure a massive response that beats the government’s anti-union thresholds and  then leads to hard-hitting strikes to win fully-funded real pay rises for schools staff.

Teachers have seen real pay fall by 20 percent in the last decade, support staff by 27 percent. No wonder in the indicative ballots members overwhelmingly backed striking to win proper pay rises, and the funding for them.

The Tories can elect new prime ministers almost every month using email ballots if they wish- but their anti-union laws mean we have to go through the slow route of a postal ballot if we want to strike.

So it will be much harder to get the turn out we need- at least 50 percent of all members in each ballot group voting.

But if we organise and if we fight we can do it.

The starting point is that we can win this fight. The money is there to pay us, and other workers too. Giant corporations are making record profits, with the oil companies alone on course to hit £150 billion profit this year.

Even the bosses of Shell and BP have said they think the government should tax them more.

We have to make the government so fearful of strikes and social unrest that it is prepared to take the money from the rich and the corporations and fund pay rises for educators, health workers sand more.

We are not alone fighting – postal workers, BT workers, rail workers dock workers are already striking. Health workers are now balloting on pay strikes too as are civil servants.

If we all fight we have the power to force the government to pay up.

But first we have to win the ballot. That means getting the basics right.

Start in your school

That means starting with your own school. We can’t really on data dashboards in the postal ballot. Instead we have to look to the old fashioned but effective way of having a list of members and going round ticking them off when they tell you they have posted their ballot.

Call a meeting this week in your schools and ask people to bring filled in and sealed ballot  envelopes and we can post them collectively.

Do not give up until every member in your school has voted- we need a terrier-like tenacity to get every ballot form returned.

Where NEU Left supporters help lead districts we then need to have a plan on how to push the turn out across the district, targeting key schools with large memberships is a good place to start.

Meetings in schools, district pay briefings, phoning reps- these are the key methods we need.

And talk to other NEU Left supporters in your area and call an NEU Left meeting in your executive district this term too.

Invite a rail or post or health worker to speak about their fight and see if we can pull in wider layers of educators to join the NEU Left- and that expanded network can then help drive our ballot turn out even higher in your area.

There are no post strikes for the first two weeks of our ballot- so go hard and early this week and next to get the maximum turn out.

But after that, as the postal strikes disrupt and delay go not give up. We need to keep going at it, fighting for every last vote through to Christmas and beyond until the ballot closes at the start of January.

Let’s make sure we are then in a position to start the action we need to win the pay rises and the funding we and our schools deserve.

War is never the answer

AT the TUC recently a motion proposed by the GMB union was narrowly passed supporting increased defence spending. The NEU rightly opposed the motion. NEU Left member Jon Reddiford from North Somerset spoke for the union in the debate. This is his speech:

Jon speaking for the NEU opposing increased defence spending at the TUC

“There is much to agree with in the early part of this motion.  However, there is also a problem.  And that is that the motion calls for an increase in defence spending.  

Liz Truss has said that she will increase spending on defence, and cut spending in the public sector.  Armed forces minister James Heappey said yesterday he would resign if this commitment was not met.  Sadly this is a motion that Truss would support, and I think there is a problem if we are passing policy that the Tories would like.  

The TUC and affiliated unions have excellent policy on diversification of spending.  And there have been successes in this area.  Defence TUs persuaded Babcock, who run Rosyth shipyard to diversify into marine repair in Scotland.  

Similarly Trades Unions, I think it was T&G then, in Lucas aerospace 40 years ago persuaded the company to diversify, a similar TU approach to what happened in Babcock.  This actually works.  

Diversification is something we can really fight for.  

We saw at the start of the pandemic both Mercedes Formula 1 and Dyson very quickly repurpose their factories to produce urgently needed respirators.  So diversification is a very winnable thing.

Nye Bevan said the language of priorities is the religion of socialism.  

Truss’s policy is defence spending, arms sales, and that is what it means.  It does mean producing arms that will be sold to Saudi Arabia to kill kids in the Yemen.   It means selling arms to 12 countries that the foreign office lists as human rights abusers.  

Increased defence spending is not in the interests of the working class, it is in the interests of the British ruling class and their attempts to extend their international influence.  

The motion rightly says the world is a less safe place.  Yes it is.  And increased defence spending will make it worse.  What if every country did this?  There would be a new arms race the likes of which we saw during the cold war and in the run up to World War 1.   And that will only end badly.  The answer to war is never more war.  

Yesterday we passed a motion on just transition.  That is what we should fight for.  That is the solution to the high skilled jobs in Barrow, Derby and elsewhere, not investment in pointless, unproductive, murderous weapons.  Oppose this composite. “

NEU Left bulletin (03-10-22)

NEU joint general secretary Kevin Courtney speaks to the protest in Birmingham

Do Everything You Can, the Moment is Now

by Colleen Johnson, NEU Left Disabled member

In the afternoon sunshine last weekend, huge crowds gathered in Birmingham City Centre at an event organised by The Peoples’ Assembly to mark the start of the Tory party conference. Workers listened to a variety of speakers from the trade unions, Disabled people against the cuts and Black lives matter and all had a similar message…there is a class struggle going on, that we must win.

Birmingham NEU’s Kate Taylor, who is convenor of the city’s People’s Assembly, chaired the rally.

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU, talked about solidarity with working people, their families and class. He highlighted rail workers, postal workers, lecturers, barristers, nurses, midwives, teachers and support staff all set together in struggle for better pay and public sector funding. He mentioned those who were campaigning for social change particularly those campaigning for free school meals. He highlighted the imminent social crisis where some would go hungry and others cold.

In the worst-case scenario individuals would struggle with both staying warm and eating and lives would be lost (a point also made by the speaker from DPAC) Kevin noted that many simply wouldn’t be able to make ends meet and so now was the time to act. ‘They blame everything totally on covid and the situation in the Ukraine’, he remarked ‘but their so- called mini budget shows the truth. Pay has been held down since 2010 and this is totally unacceptable’.

Mick Lynch general secretary of the RMT talked about a change coming that you could feel. He spoke about the last six months full of decadence and corruption by the ruling class. He highlighted the shameful mini budget – a profound, bold and radical statement on behalf of their class and their interests. He reminded listeners that workers create wealth whilst the rich merely store and consume it.

He focussed upon the need to preserve schools, hospitals, water services, energy, bus and rail services, the education system and provision for both disabled people and elderly people by public ownership if necessary. He highlighted the process of subsidising profit and propping up the bond markets when he was sure that people would much rather subsidise health or social care.

He spoke of a class struggle that we had to win as next year would be too late as our rights of assembly/protest would be lost and our human rights diminished. He stated we needed to defeat the government and win the war of ideas. He added any new government must ‘deliver for our people’. He concluded by saying people needed to join up across workplaces and places of worship and that everyone including artists, writers and musicians had a part to play.

Sheffield protest on Saturday

Day of rage against the Tories

by Emma Davies, Sheffield

Saturday 1 October saw thousands of people join demos, rallies and picket lines across the country in a fightback against the cost of living crisis and in support of the Royal Mail and Rail Workers’ strikes. 

This marked the first day of coordinated action between the CWU (the Royal Mail union) and ASLEF and RMT (Rail workers’ unions). 170,000 workers were on strike, bringing the postal service and the rail network to a halt. 

This is a step forward in the resistance to the Tories and their agenda of cutting taxes for the rich, will attacking workers’ pay and conditions. 

The demos and rallies were called for by the Enough is Enough campaign, and were supported by union and campaign groups across the country. The atmosphere on the protests was one of anger and defiance at the Tory government. 

The demand for united action, through strikes and protests was repeated in the slogans on placards and in the speeches. Groups from across the left joined – from Extinction Rebellion,  Black Lives Matter, Stand Up to Racism, and more – making the link between the fight against the cost of living crisis, with the fight to save planet and against racism and injustice.  

The coordinated strikes and protests on 1 October need to be the launch pad for more action. As the Tories turn up their attacks on workers, we need to ramp up the resistance. 

Every NEU Left member should involve themselves in the strikes, join the picket lines and protests, and use the momentum from these struggles to build the biggest possible turn out  in our workplaces and districts our own NEU ballots. 

In Sheffield where I work around 1500 people joined the Enough is Enough rally called for by the TUC. The mood was vibrant and angry. Groups from across the movement joined from Black Lives Matter, People’s Assembly and climate activists. 

The RMT and ASLEF unions made speeches, calling for more united action. Robyn Orfitelli from the UCU union spoke out – “Stand together to take down these dragons. There is power in solidarity, there is hope in solidarity and we will change in solidarity.”

See picture round up below

Editorial comment

Build ballots towards pay fight

The response to the NEU’s internal pay ballots has been huge- and shows a real mood for a fight on pay and funding.

All the ballots – teachers’, support staff, sixthform colleges- are on course to beat the kinds of thresholds set by Tory anti-union laws- and that should give the go ahead for full strike ballots.

No wonder people are angry. Truss and Kwarteng are giving handouts to the super rich and big business, while inflation hammers living standards for most people. Now they are threatening more austerity and cuts while even their beloved markets give a huge thumbs down to their economic plans.

Now we have to get ready for a series of full strike ballots- of teachers, of support staff and of sixth form college teachers.

Those will be much harder work than the internal ballots- as they have to be postal to people’s home addresses and we won’t get updates on how many people have voted.

That means we have to redouble efforts in every area to organise for the ballot- planning reps briefings, school meetings, checklists to tick people off when they have voted.

It means fine tuning the kind of local targeted strategy that has worked so well in the indicative ballets to fight for maximum turn out.

Other workers are fighting back too- as Saturday’s powerful rail and postal strike showed, along with the solidarity rallies across the country. Dockers at Liverpool and Felixstowe were also out- at ports handling two thirds of Britain’s container traffic. In all some 175,000 workers were on strike on Saturday.

More strikes are planned too- with the CWU announcing a whole raft of strikes over the coming weeks.

And strikes can get results  – as the 11 percent pay deal won by 2,000 by Arriva bus workers in north London last week after being ready to go on all out strike from this week shows.

If the postal strikes are still on as we move towards the start of our NEU strike ballots – which have to be by post under the laws-we will have to assess timings and ballot deadlines in the light of that.

But we have the momentum now and should press ahead as quickly as possible to get the strikes that are the only way we will win – to defend both our living standards, and our schools and students’ education.

If you have a story or opinion piece you’d like us to run, or an idea for something we should run, mail us at [email protected]

Calais Solidarity

NEU members in Calais

by Amy Fletcher, Tower Hamlets

Over 20 NEU volunteers, many of whom are NEU Left members, spent last weekend volunteering with Care 4 Calais in northern France, bringing essential solidarity to refugee men, women and children. 

We distributed fleeces, which are vital as the days shorten and darken, and temperatures drop, as well as organising much-needed food packages and bringing charging points, tea, coffee and biscuits, barber equipment and games. 

The rain on Saturday morning was torrential, yet many of the men that we met only wore flip flops, with many wearing only t-shirts or thin jumpers. 

Disgracefully the French riot police continue to clear any unattended tents every 48 hours: a vicious act which forces refugees to be on constant guard for fear of losing what keeps them alive. It is a dehumanising and violent act of intimidation. 

If you want to help with future visits contact:

A wave of protest and solidarity

Paddington, London
Kings Cross, London
Tower Hamlets, London
Hackney, London
Haringey, London