Scottish teachers marched in Glasgow on 27 October demanding an austerity-busting 10% pay rise. 30,000 attended the march organised by The Educational Institute of Scotland, excellent numbers considering there are around 50,000 teachers in Scotland.
The campaign Scottish teachers are waging is inspirational, but school workers might wonder how inspired our leadership have been here in England and Wales, given that National Education Union Joint General Secretary Kevin Courtney recently rose from a posture of begging that the 3.5% pay rise offered in England and Wales should be fully funded and apply to all teachers, to praise the fight over pay in Scotland. We voted to campaign for a 5% pay rise, but as soon as the pay review body recommend a 3.5% pay rise Joint General Secretary Mary Bousted welcomed it.
The 5% demand was junked and we were treated to Dave Harvey, exec member for outer London, pouring cold water on any potential fight and telling us that ‘if there is a mood for action in schools then we would proceed to an indicative ballot to test the water for industrial action’. The lead-from-the-back bureaucrat-speak here needs unpicking a bit. Seeing the union exec’s role as organising a ballot to test the waters is a way of placing the blame on school workers when, seeing the exec aren’t willing to fight, they aren’t inspired to turn out in great enough numbers to vote for action. The executive is elected to carry out the will of conference, not to find ways to weasel out of a promise for action over a 5% pay rise by organising a consultation process for an indicative ballot to show feeling for a ballot on action which can do nothing but demobilise and disorient workplace activists and members.
Courtney’s left-posturing on the Scottish pay campaign belies an attitude to union organising which is willing to appear radical when it comes to other people’s pay claims, but unwilling to do anything to organise a similar fight for his own members. National Education Union conference, in April 2019, will be an opportunity for activists to show the executive officers what we think a fighting union is. Why not pass a Workers’ Liberty motion through your division and challenge the executive on anything from testing and teachers’ pay, through to union democracy and the representation of support staff.
By an NEU member