Leeds NUT calls on union to fight

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Despite bad weather and poor travel conditions, thirty-four representatives met in Leeds to discuss the NUT’s response to the Government’s changes to pay and pensions, writes Nick Jones

The meeting began with National Executive member and Treasurer, Ian Murch, giving a detailed report on the union’s analysis and strategy. He said that the pay freeze on salaries over £21,000 had seen a 12% reduction in wages in real terms:

Year Pay Increase Inflation
2010 2.3% 4.6%
2011 0% 5.6%
2012 0% 2.6%

The Government proposes to extend the wage freeze meaning that teachers will lose around 14% across three years. This combined with changes to pensions meaning an increase in pension contributions, an increase in the retirement age and reduction in the pension pay out, means that teacher’s pay now lagged behind private sector graduate pay by 4% and is set to drop further.

NUT leadership ducked the fight on pensions and are now failing to fight massive attacks on the national pay scale.

NUT leadership ducked the fight on pensions and are now failing to fight massive attacks on the national pay scale.

The latest proposals seek to remove pay-progression unless ‘substantial and sustained contributions’ are made. These will be determined by individual head teachers and schools who will no longer be constrained by a pay scale. Teachers who change employment between schools will no longer be entitled to keep current position on the pay spine as head teachers have ‘no obligation to match a teacher’s existing salary.’ As Dave Gay and Kate Ford have argued on anticapitalists.org this is a massive attack on the national pay scale.

Ofsted have been given the task of ensuring that schools are only progressing teachers who make a ‘substantial and sustained’ contribution, effectively threatening heads who wish to continue the status quo of automatic annual progression. The pensionable age is set to rise to 68 and teachers will no longer have their pension calculated on a final salary scheme. This will mean a reduction in pension for the overwhelming majority of teachers.

Proposed changes to pay and conditions will be in the pipeline along with continued pressures of the examinations, performance pay and forced academy status.

To summarise:

  • A 14-15% pay cut in real terms by 2014
  • Increase in pension contributions
  • Increase in pensionable age and reduction in pension entitlement
  • Abolition of automatic pay progression and entitlement to retention of pay spine points

The response of the union so far has been to continue the workload action, that has seen some success in some schools.To seek further meetings with the NASUWT, and other unions, with a view to taking industrial action at some point in the future.

Members were then invited to give their ideas. The meeting was visibly agitated and angry that the NUT National Executive had rejected calls for industrial action now. Many representatives spoke of the lack of information made available to members and a lack-lustre publicity campaign. The failure to continue industrial action had emboldened Gove who proposes further attacks on the profession.

The methodology of conducting a ballot and survey after survey – without acting on the advice of members – was roundly condemned. Where school based groups had had meetings, members voted overwhelmingly for industrial action. A massive 79% of members surveyed agreed to take strike action without the NASUWT. Yet their wishes had been ignored.

There was a real fear that an over-cautious response and lack of a clear strategy meant members faced demoralisation. A motion demanding that the NUT National Executive rescind it’s decision not to call strike action before the summer term and to set a strike day for Budget Day on the 20th March, was passed unanimously. A lack of leadership, failure to listen to union representatives and absence of any strategy and clear communication were seen at the immediate obstacles to winning members to the idea of action.

All present wished for professional unity – across the different teaching unions – but the reality is that we have separate unions and that our members’ interests were being put at a significant disadvantage by refusing to act now.

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