A caucus of members of the National Union of Teachers at the pension activist conference called by PCS Left Unity on 7 January agreed to press NUT Executive members at their meeting on 12 January to commit the union to name a date for a further strike before 11 February and explicitly to reject the Government's 19 December formula.
The main conference session, however, 450 strong, failed to press the PCS leadership to take an initiative for continued action against pension cuts.
PCS Left Unity (in effect, the PCS leadership) presented the meeting with a statement which called for the TUC public sector committee on 12 January to organise a further strike, but was silent about what PCS will do if the TUC committee doesn't do that (which it won't).
PCS vice-president John McInally said in a speech that if the TUC committee calls no action, then PCS will organise a meeting of unions which do want to fight on. That meeting, he said, would discuss further action; but beyond that he would not go.
He, and conference chair and PCS president Janice Godrich, refused to allow conference to vote on an amendment (moved by East London NUT activist and SWP member Paul McGarr) demanding PCS propose further strikes to such a post-12-January meeting, and also refused to allow any debate on a motion including similar demands and more brought to the conference by PCS Independent Left, Lambeth Unison, and other trade unionists.
The conference, unfortunately, was heavily dominated by the Socialist Party (which has hegemony in the PCS leadership), to the point that a number of obviously pre-set speeches were straight recruiting pitches for the SP and its TUSC front.
It started with nine platform speeches, one after the other, and allowed little scope for debate. However, the NUT caucus at least was significant, and the conference will have exerted some pressure on the SP to budge from its "no-fight-unless-someone-else-goes-first" line.
The bulk of the platform speeches were given over to celebrations of the action on 30 June and 30 November last year, and denunciations of the leaders of the TUC and right-wing unions like Unison.
Briefing on the details of the 19 December Government formula - and the "sideways shifts" in cuts which it involves - would have been useful, but was offered only in a short floor speech by Unison Executive member Jon Rogers.
The best platform speech was from UCU Executive (and SWP) member Mark Campbell: "Come next Thursday [12th], those unions that are saying no should announce a national strike day before half-term" [11 February].
The SWP has been all over the place in the pensions campaign in the last year and more - sometimes opposing picket lines and recommending strikes be made into "fun days", sometimes opposing rolling and selective action, blathering that the answer was for everyone to "stay out" spontaneously after 30 November - but it was on the button at this meeting.
NUT deputy general secretary Kevin Courtney spoke from the platform, but left the meeting before the NUT caucus. He was obviously striving to give the "best" reading of the official NUT position, but noticeably did not (because he could not) claim that the NUT has rejected the Government formula or proposes further action.
Courtney pointed out that the Government "attacks are largely unchanged". Where there are small concessions, they were offered before 30 November, and "in large measure we have won nothing for young workers". Shifts by the Government since 30 November are "not an amelioration, just a rearrangement".
Other platform speakers had claimed that NUT and NASUWT had rejected the Government formula. But the difference is crucial between "not signing up" to the Government formula, and rejecting it; and between generally favouring continued action, or saying that it is an option, and organising it.
If union leaders go no further than "not signing up" and saying that further action is an option, or would be desirable if the TUC would organise it, then it is only a roundabout form of sell-out.
The NUT's press release on 6 January said: "The NUT... has... agreed to continue to pursue further changes to the [Government's] proposals. [Further? As if there had been any since 19 December?]...
"We remain committed to a negotiated agreement on pensions but... the Government must face the fact that further discussions and additional funding are needed".
This is a pollyannaish plea for more and better negotiations, rather than a call for continued mobilisation. Members of the Executive's nominal left-wing majority must commit to reversing this stance at the 12 January meeting.
If they do that, the battle of left-wingers in PCS to budge their own SP-dominated leadership will be greatly strengthened, and almost certainly other unions can be drawn in to the continued struggle.