Rank and file teachers get organised
Over 100 teachers travelled across the country to fill a meeting hall in Liverpool on Saturday. The Local Associations National Action Conference was called after a packed fringe meeting at National Union of Teachers conference wanted the opportunity to discuss further action in the pensions dispute. Angered by the leaderships step back on the pensions dispute, local associations from across the country organised the conference.
Delegates were elected from their local associations, which voted to support the conference and initiative. There was a diverse selection of local branches on the day, with many London branches present, alongside the South West, Midlands and the North.
Topics for discussion on the day included the NUT leaderships lack of action, the “historic agreement” with NASWUT, the other major teaching union and the imminent ballot on workload.
There was no denying how very angry rank and file members were at the current leadership’s withdrawal on action. As many speakers highlighted, we went from June 30th, where a few other public sector unions joined the NUT, to November 30th, which was effectively a public sector general strike to March 28th, which just saw London members out, with a couple of other unions. The London strike-which was in the end a very successful strike- was intended to be the start of rolling strike action, however other regions were not called out. Those that spoke were no doubt angry that the next national strike on pensions could indeed be the first in a year.
Alec Kenny from the NEC spoke about how important the agreement with NASWUT is. Those that spoke from the floor met this with some skepticism: indeed agreements with other unions is a good thing, and the more unions that come out the better, however NUT members do not want to be held back by what a much less active union may or may not do. Many urged the leadership to call the date sooner rather than later, to ensure that a strike happens in the autumn term. Ideally strikes would occur close the TUC demonstration on October 20th. It was generally agreed that a teacher’s strike should happen before the demonstration to build excitement.
A ballot will very soon be released, calling for non-strike action on workload. A speaker from the South West correctly argued that this will need to have very concrete ideas, as workload is a huge beast for teachers. Possible successful actions would include:
- Boycott of OFSTED. Teachers could refuse to let OFSTED inspectors into their class rooms
- Rrefusal to enter student data. Teachers could still mark and assess student’s work, but refuse to enter the data into the system for primary school teacher’s to refuse to submit lesson plans.
It was pointed out that the NASUWT “work to rule” since November has been ineffectual. A whole work to rule would require a very strong union branch in school, so the idea that you focus on specific issues would see the ballot be fairly successful.
The conference voted for a delegate based steering committee, where one member of each supporting local associations able to attend. This could be done on a rolling basis.
The day did present a great step forward for the development of grassroots, rank and file organisation in the NUT. With historic attacks on the teaching profession-alongside the whole of the public sector- teachers organising from the bottom up is a crucial step forward in working class organisation.