The outcome of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) Easter conference makes it more important than ever for delegates to build a grass-roots movement capable of challenging the leadership and building local disputes that can increase members’ confidence and capacity and speed serious national action.
As the press headlines say, the conference voted against definite plans for strike action in the autumn term. There will be yet another one day national strike in the summer term. But members cannot be blamed for asking whether this new one day protest is not more of the same tokenism.
We left conference with no more of a strategy than the union has had since early 2011, when it rejected Unison's explicit acceptance of a sell-out on public sector pensions, said it was continuing to fight on pensions, but made no definite plans.
We now have the prospect of yet another survey of members to gauge their willingness to strike. Members have repeatedly responded well to strike calls, even in the absence of clear demands or action strategy from the Executive, and yet we have another survey to ask if we really mean it.
The way to build a member led union is to use strike days to engage members in planning for the next one… and the ones after that!
Strike committees in local areas can form the basis of building union strength, debating future strategy and winning local disputes across the country. This would seriously re-energise the union, develop our lay structures and prepare us for future battles.
In conference a false dichotomy was set up between the political campaign and industrial action. A political campaign is good, but now it is being used to hide the lack of a serious industrial strategy.
Contrast the current RMT dispute on London Underground. The political element — “Hands Off London Transport” — has been tied into fast-moving industrial action campaign, swiftly reactivated when management failed to budge in negotiations.