Activists of the National Union of Teachers and the UCU in London have worked hard to get a good turn-out for the regional one-day strike on 28 March over the Government’s pension changes called by their union leaders after those leaders had overruled member surveys showing big majorities for a national strike.
The indications are for a reasonable showing. Much better could have been achieved if the London strike had been called as part of the national strike, together with other unions, which was on the cards until the NUT Executive on 14 March cancelled it — leading to domino-effect cancellations by UCU, PCS, NIPSA, and EIS.
Much better could have been got if the strike had been called as a prompt response to the Government’s 19 December terms rather than after four months’ loss of momentum since 30 November.
From 28 March, the only realistic and serious next step forward is a decision by the NUT’s Easter conference (6-10 April) to:
* set a national strike day now, for early as possible in the third term, and campaign to get the PCS, UCU, Unite, EIS, and NIPSA out on the same day. This is possible. PCS, Unite, and NIPSA are already talking of a strike in “late April”, and PCS leaders will be under pressure from their members to display some action before their union conference in May.
* formulate plans now for a quick-tempo rolling programme of regional and selective strikes, sustained by strike levies, to follow the national strike.
* put out those plans to wide democratic discussion in the union, including in democratic strike meetings on the national strike day; and organise strike committees in every area jointly with other unions continuing the campaign.
* formulate precise and credible demands on the Government.
It will be difficult to restart the campaign now even with the best policy. But it is possible.
We need to build a rank-and-file network in the NUT which will provide space for democratic debate of strategy when the official union channels do not allow it, and enable local activists to come together to exert organised pressure on the supposedly “left” Executive and general secretary, and where necessary campaign in an organised way across the union for alternative strategies.