On 27 June, teachers in the North West of England will strike against government attacks on teachers’ pay.
Greg Foster, secretary of Chester and Cheshire West NUT, said: “This government has singled out teachers as we are the best-organised, most unionised workforce in the country. The fight back begins in the North West. We can and will win”.
Members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and NASUWT, the two largest teachers’ unions, will also remind ministers that we remain opposed to plans to make us pay more and work until at least 68 for a meaner pension. The many thousands of messages of support and solidarity activities from areas outside the North West are evidence of a widespread desire to see our unions mount a serious challenge to these attacks.
We have said all along that failure to defend our pensions and pay will lead to yet further worsening of our conditions, with workload and hours next. In recent days the truth of this has become all too clear.
In this latest evidence to the School Teachers’ Review Body, Michael Gove has made it clear that he intends to remove every significant remaining contractual protection we have. He has asked the Review Body (which normally does his bidding without question) to consider the following:
• Remove the limits on what teachers can be directed to do, including the 25 tasks
• Reduce the requirements for PPA to be allocated in meaningful blocks of time and on the weekly timetable — so that we could get a few minutes here and there on an irregular basis
• Abolish the entitlement that we have a midday lunch break
• Allow Heads to require us to carry out lunchtime supervision (“to make it easier for head teachers to cut costs”, i.e., sack lunchtime supervisors)
• To remove the limit on working hours and days so that schools can enforce longer working days and shorter holiday periods.
• Remove the requirement that we can only rarely be asked to cover for absence
• Require once again teachers to invigilate exams.
The government is intent on the complete deregulation of our job. The question is whether we have the confidence, determination, and organisation to resist.
The North West strike is to be followed, we are told by union leaders, by two further regional strikes in September and October, and then a national strike in November. The dates for those strikes should be announced as soon as possible so that members can focus and prepare and government know that we mean business.
We need to start planning the campaign beyond that. Experience has shown that very occasional one day strikes with no clear follow-up will not shift this government (we have taken two days of national action since the pension changes were announced). We need to plan a much more intense programme of action over a much shorter period of time.
27 June will undoubtedly be an inspiring and well-supported start.
But this should be a determined campaign to win, not a protest at the inevitable. Gove has raised the stakes massively; it’s time we raised our game.