Members of the largest teaching, union, the NUT, will take strike action on 2 July in England to demand nationally agreed terms and conditions for all teachers in all state-funded local authority and academy schools.
The action is also demanding increased funding for schools and an end to cuts. 60% of secondary schools in England and 15% of primaries are now academies and can set their own terms and conditions. Back in March the government announced they would force all schools to become academies. That prompted the NUT Executive to propose strike action to demand all teachers have agreed national conditions. The proposal was endorsed by the union’s conference and a ballot for action closed on 23 June. 92% of those who voted supported the strike call.
Despite an apparent climbdown by Nicky Morgan in May the government have made it very clear that they intend to proceed with plans to force all schools to become academies by 2020. That is why everyone who opposes the break-up and marketisation of the education system should fully and actively support the NUT action.
The government want to effectively abolish local authority-maintained schools and, in the process, abolish teachers’ national terms and conditions. The School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD) and the so-called “Burgundy Book” (which provides terms of paid maternity and sick leave and notice periods) only apply statutorily to maintained schools. If these schools no longer exist then there will be no statutory national pay and conditions for teachers.
The 24% turnout for the ballot suggests that there is plenty of work to do to increase awareness of the scale of this threat and to build confidence that action can win. We need to establish that:
• There was no real u-turn and all schools will be forced to become academies
• The threat to teachers’ pay and conditions is existential — every employment condition we now have beyond the employment law minimums are at risk
• This includes our PPA time, pay ranges, notice periods, maternity and sick pay and a host of other rights
• The threat is not only for the future — teachers in academies and free schools are already being dismissed without notice, denied their normal maternity pay and so on
• The key demand of the action is very straightforward — a national contract for all teachers, which is negotiated with our unions
• Funding cuts are already costing jobs in schools and leading to the denial of pay progression.
Unless we restore funding that will get worse. 5 July is not a one-protest strike but the start of an ongoing campaign. The GMB has decided to ballot in Autumn and other school unions have been approached to join this dispute.
It is important union material says all of these things. Clear messages about the purpose of the action and the intention to conduct a serious fight are the best tools for making 5 July effective. It shouldn’t be a matter of waiting to see if that clarity comes from the top. The rank-and-file network LANAC will be sending out material which spells out this case.