According to the website of the National Union of Teachers, the union is “stepping up our campaign”.
Some on the left in the NUT praise the plans as “a turn to political trade unionism”. However, the political activity proposed is weak.
The union leadership is semi-committed to another one-day strike this term, and if Unison and other unions go for 10 July, the NUT may strike on the same day, and produce an important protest against the Tories.
Plans for further action, to move from protest to winning concessions, remain vague. The union leaders have set out proposals to fill the gap in a mailing to all members announcing:
• a lobby of Parliament on 10 June (necessarily by few teachers, since it is on a school day)
• plans to get NUT members to lobby MPs locally
• a request to local NUT branches to organise stalls to leaflet the public.
None of the material sets out definite demands. The mailing cites, as its shining example that “pressure works”, a meeting by NUT members in Watford with their local Tory MP which got him to write to education minister Michael Gove to support the right of “free schools” to hire unqualified teachers... but worry that it may be “used as a tool to effectively ‘ hire on the cheap’ .”
The MP then declared: “Across Watford, I have seen first-hand the massive improvements in education that have come about as a result of Michael’s efforts”.
The union needs a political strategy which could stir up real pressure on an incoming Labour government in 2015 to restore public services.
And that needs to be coupled with plans for continuing and escalating industrial action, rather than scattered one-day strikes without definite sequel.
The coming elections for General Secretary (balloting from 5 to 14 June) and Deputy General Secretary (closing date for nominations 1 December) give members a chance to press for a real “stepping up”.