Croydon: teachers and students uniting
By a Croydon teacher and South London AWL member
I got the news of the NUT and ATL [teachers’ unions] ballot results from an email at 3.10 on Tuesday 14 June. At 3.15pm I walked out of my classroom to find a group of very excited year 10s shouting “teachers are going on strike!”
The teacher who runs the art club got the kids to help make banners today, some of the slogans (which the kids chose) included “no pension, no work” and “we won’t clean up your mess”.
Locally, our association (Croydon) is encouraging picket lines but it looks like few will happen, which I think reflects a failure of the national union, which has been silent on the issue. If my school isn’t closed, the picket line will function properly and really show the teachers and the kids which side they should be on.
Croydon NUT has also been central in getting the local trades council to call a public meeting on 28 June, which has a dual function. The trades council is leafletting the town centre at weekends to get ordinary members of the public to come and hear the case for the strike, and question it if they like. But that meeting will also discuss a motion asking the national union leaderships to escalate the action, and proposing to set up a strike committee in Croydon.
Merseyside: linking up with anti-academy campaigners
By Elaine Jones, President, Wirral TUC (pc)
In Wirral and Liverpool Trades Councils we’ve been arguing for a position similar to the one adopted in Nottingham and by Rotherham NUT — plans for the next strike to be announced straight away; action to include rolling strikes as well as one-day walkouts; and strike committees both within and between unions.
Everyone’s talking about the need to escalate the action. A token protest strike on June 30 isn’t enough. We’ve succeeded in getting the Trades Councils to produce leaflets for groups such as parents, schoolchildren and the unemployed about why they should support the strike.
On the day we’ll have a demonstration in central Liverpool followed by an indoor rally; that’s being organised by the PCS.
Workers’ Liberty members have also been agitating amongst students to get walkouts so they can join the demonstration. We’ve been focusing in particular on Shorefields, where there’s been big anti-academy protests.
Norwich: fighting for democratic spaces
By a Norfolk AWL member
On the strike day, there’ll be a rally at The Forum in Norwich around noon. There’ll also be a meeting at City Hall in the run-up to the strike.
Formally this has been called by the local anti-cuts committee, the Norfolk Coalition Against Cuts (NCAC), but the plans were mainly drawn up behind the scenes and brought to the NCAC steering committee for rubber stamping. I got a motion through to ensure NCAC publicity contains a call to discuss and organise for industrial action, and a request for local union branches to invite NCAC to their next meeting.
There is interest in what’s been happening in Nottingham but there’s no real desire to replicate it. There’s talk of a follow-up conference in September, but it’s along the same tired lines with top-table speakers from the bureaucratic anti-cuts campaigns (Right To Work, Coalition of Resistance, National Shop Stewards’ Network).
I am trying to set up a space for those who want to discuss ongoing action in a more democratic and grassroots way.
Newcastle: improving our anti-cuts network
By Ed Whitby, Newcastle City Unison shop steward (pc) and Northeast AWL
Activists from our local anti-cuts network are holding a gathering on Saturday 25 June.
The event includes workshops on attacks on education, NHS, benefits, and a debate on the role of unions and strikes in fighting the cuts. The event will hear from PCS and UCU members who are striking on the 30th and will make banners and placards for march and rally in Newcastle.
Nottingham: building the joint strike committee
By Tom Unterrainer, NUT delegate to Nott’m joint strike committee (pc); Nottingham AWL
The 30 June strikes represents a real opportunity for the labour movement to re-organise and strengthen itself. It is not an opportunity that has come around often in the last period. The efforts in Nottingham to coordinate activities for these strikes has shown both the potential but also the very real obstacles to our aim of reorganising the labour movement.
The working-class movement in Nottingham has taken a number of leaps forward over the past two years. A re-established and reinvigorated trades council — which covers the whole of Nottinghamshire — holds well attended and lively monthly meetings. It delivers solidarity to workers taking action in the county and provides a space for trade unionists to debate and discuss important issues. Most significantly, it has set up the Nottinghamshire Save Our Services campaign and most recently a strike committee of unions involved to prepare for the upcoming day of action and actions to come.
Not surprisingly, every opportunity for effective united action and coordination has its obstacles. Having the necessary organisation in place is not the same as having the correct — or most effective ‚ “political approach”.
There have been sharp disagreements within the Notts joint strike committee over what is meant by the “unity” these committees and structures in Nottingham might have hoped to foster. The background to those disagreements is worth describing.
Firstly, there was significant hostility to the proposal from the National Union of Teachers to hold a mass strike meeting on 30 June. These disagreements were founded on at least two false positions:
1. The counterposition of a “day of rage” — with a mass demonstration, cultural events etc… — to getting strikers and other workers to discuss the next steps in the dispute;
2. The claim made by representatives from the PCS [the civil service union] town committee that “their members” were not interested in such a meeting and that it would be of no use given that the “PCS knows what it’s doing”.
But you can have both a big and lively demonstration and a strike meeting.
Whether or not PCS and UCU officers think their members need to debate, and so exert some democratic influence on the course of the dispute, it’s a basic socialist ABC that the members should have that chance. That it was self-proclaimed socialists who were so hostile to the idea speaks volumes.
All the arguments became compounded by claims of unaccountability of committee delegates. Any question of accountability — establishing who is a delegate representing a trade union branch and who is at a meeting as an individual — could have been easily settled by having some basic labour movement norms of function at the outset. But in any case, it was clear that the majority of people in the room actually represented a union branch or committee.
Tensions also arose about the overall focus of the day. This is the most legitimate point of dispute and it should have been discussed in greater detail. The NUT and ATL ballots focus solely on the governments’ proposed attack on public sector pensions, and the UCU and PCS disputes also cover redundancies and cuts.
After much travail, there will be a strike meeting — organised by the NUT but open to all strikers and other workers — in a venue that seats up to 1,000 people. At this meeting, activists will propose a motion supported by the trades council and local NUT branches calling for the disputes to be escalated.
There will outdoor demonstrations and rallies attended by members of all the striking unions.
As things stand in Nottingham a series of positive outcomes is likely. Whatever the antagonisms and sharp debate, there is a joint strike committee in Nottingham and is set to continue. This fact alone is positive. We should not expect or be content with a political culture in the labour movement that shies away from debate.
Glasgow: solidarity with PCS
By a Glasgow AWL member
The strike is smaller in Scotland as the education system is different and the NUT don’t organise here.
However, there are efforts underway to build solidarity around the PCS’s action. There’s a lunchtime rally in George Square which the PCS have organised, and there was a suggestion that the STUC might organise an evening rally as well. At the moment the lunchtime rally is the one that’s being heavily built for.
• Details of 30 June rallies round the country: bit.ly/izdlVW