The teachers' rank-and-file network LANAC held its second steering committee on 9 March in Coventry. There were just over 20 delegates from 18 branches and it was a meeting which prepared the ground for LANAC's second intervention at NUT Conference.
The main discussion followed a report on the pay campaign from NEC member, Patrick Murphy, and centred on the approach which should be taken to this dispute at Conference. Whatever the details delegates agreed that LANAC should present an alternative to the strategy of the union leadership which would call for a programme of action to start early in the summer term and to involve a number of national strikes before the new pay arrangements are introduced. The official position is very unclear at the moment but at best it promises little or no action on that time-frame and certainly not before late June. There was unanimous agreement within LANAC that this is nowhere near good enough.
It is also clear that there is no other collective grouping in the union pushing for urgent action. The existing groups in the NUT are supporting the leadership strategy. LANAC will write to all branches before Conference to explain and promote their alternative strategy, invite them to affiliate and publicise LANAC fringe meetings.
There will be two main LANAC fringe meetings; on Saturday 30 March to prepare for the pay debate and on the evening of Monday 1 April to review the debate and plan next steps.
LANAC was invited to support a 'joint' meeting organised for the opening night of conference by members of the Socialist Teachers Alliance. This is billed as a local associations sponsored meeting and has Kevin Courtney and Mark Serwotka as speakers. It was agreed that the organisers should be contacted with a request for a debate on the pay strategy with a LANAC speaker given equal time and an agreed chair. Without those assurances LANAC won't be supporting the meeting. Instead delegates will be encouraged to intervene in the meeting with arguments and material putting the case for urgent action.
There was real progress in deepening the reach of LANAC into the grassroots of the union. At Conference there will be an affiliation drive which, on our proposal, will include a drive to get school groups affiliated. There was a useful proposal about how we balance the voting representation of branches and reps in future.
It was agreed that the next LANAC event would take place on 18 May, preferably in Birmingham. It was the end of the meeting and we hadn't time to fully assess whether that is a steering committee or conference. I think there was a mood for a conference and at least an extended steering committee. The key thing is that this is settled and publicised at Conference.
Overall the level of discussion, the kind of issues covered and the way debate was handled made it an excellent meeting. Nothing comparable has gone on anywhere else I can think on the left of the union for years, if ever. We raised rolling action, involving reps and school groups and why a rank and file network required representative structures. All this was seriously and soberly discussed , was echoed by others and became, or already was the consensus.
NUT Conference looks like being a crucial next phase in the development of this really promising rank and file network