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Exclusive: teachers ‘prepare ground’ for early new year strike

‘Urgency’ as NEU exec members told to get ready and start briefing branches now ready for vote in favour of action

The National Education Union (NEU) is preparing for strike action ‘with a real sense of urgency’ in response to the government’s input to the ‘School Teachers Review Body’ pay review, which is expected in just over a week.

A message sent by the union’s joint general secretaries to members of the NEU executive tells them to start getting branches ready to achieve a positive vote by union members in favour of action on a government offer that is not expected to be anywhere near the eight percent rise the union is demanding for hard-pressed teachers:

Dear colleagues,

Mary and I are writing to follow-up our discussion on the pay campaign at the last executive. There was a real sense of urgency in the discussion and agreement of an overall approach to the next stages, most especially building member engagement, Value Education, Value Educators style, from the bottom up.

Since the executive, we learnt that the DfE remit to the School Teachers Review Body (STRB) will be published before Christmas but not before 13 December. On that basis, we must prepare for a members’ pay survey to run in the New Year – provisionally to go live on 14 January.

We all need to take steps before then to prepare the ground. We need your help with explaining the strategy to our branch officers and stressing the importance of them organising reps’ briefings in early January.

Specifically, we are asking geographically elected executive members to:

Deliver a briefing of all branches in your area on pay and workload before the Xmas break.
Our toolkit with model resources is here. – branch officers contact details, template email and SMS invites and model briefing slides. N.B. Executive members in the same executive district will need to plan together about the best way to deliver this briefing.

Encourage your branches to hold a briefing for all reps on pay and workload between 10-14 January.

Reps that attended a briefing are 48 per cent more likely to take workplace action which in turn boosts survey response rates. The briefing should take place the week before the pay survey goes live, i.e 10-14 January – and will following a national joint general secretary Zoom being scheduled for 4-7 January.

Sending the branch toolkit to your branches locally

After your briefing, send your local branches our toolkit and keep up-to-date with them to ensure briefings are scheduled and promoted to reps before the end of term.

Alongside this work, we will orgnaise a national Zoom for the first week of term and we will utilise our national union communications platforms to popularise our demand for an 8 per cent pay rise across all teacher pay scales in 2022 and 8 per cent in 2023. Watch and share this video explaining why such a pay rise is so vital to addressing our teacher recruitment and retention crisis.

We do not believe these Zoom calls with local officers need to wait until the STRB remit is published. We need to build member support for our 8 per cent claim now, preparing the ground with branches and reps so that we stimulate members to reject the STRB remit and declare themselves in favour of action.

We think that work starts now. Thanks in advance for all your support.

Yours sincerely,
Kevin and Mary

Skwawkbox view:

Like NHS staff, teachers have borne much of the brunt of the Tories’ reckless disregard for human life that has cost hundreds of thousands of people their lives and health during the pandemic – and they still face doing their jobs in environments where none of the recommended anti-transmission mitigations have been provided by the government, despite schools being the main driver of infection – a long-known fact that this week led Belgium to close schools as its sole lockdown measure in response to the new coronavirus variant and rising infections.

And like NHS staff and other front-line workers who have put their lives on the line, teachers are unlikely to receive anything like the reward and recognition they are entitled to expect – and tragically, there will be no demands from the Labour leadership for better, judging by Keir Starmer’s feeble response to the government’s derisory pay offers to the NHS and public sector workers.

Skwawkbox stands in solidarity with teachers and all workers facing exploitation by the Establishment.

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49 comments

  1. This is a welcome development. Most NEU members work for a set of for-profit schools operators which rely on their teachers being disorganised and misinformed on work load and pay. The start of a bottom-up (branch-centric) campaign of Briefing on pay and workload to Survey members can only be a good thing.

    And, equally important, let’s appreciate the sterling work Sharon Graham and Unite have achieved in her first 100 hundred days as the Union’s General Sec.. She secured 43 pay deals worth more than £25m

    1. QUESTION:

      In the above MS article, Ben Chacko says:
      “The leader of Labour’s biggest donor also told the Guardian that she vowed to cut political funding for the party, which she argued would be better spent funding union campaigns.”

      Does anybody know who is ‘Labour’s biggest (non-Union?) donor here? (I can’t bring myself to load the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-financed Guardian article, which probably states who it is).

      1. DOH! It probably means Unite the Union itself.

        (I’m probably having a foggy-brain day) 😖

    2. Qwertboi, I agree with a lot of what you are saying, specially agree that Sharon Graham is doing an excellent job as Unite’s General Secretary.
      However, no sure striking is the right strategy here. After months of school closures the educational attainment gap between children from affluent families and those from working class families has widen. Hence, what about teachers working to rule instead?
      Most teachers work more than the hours they are been contracted for, while working to rule they would only work the hours they are contracted for.
      The advantages of work to rule is that the employer cannot dock pay and it could be carry on for as long as needed without financial penalty, while at the same time the pupils and working class parents (the ones that cannot work from home) don’t suffer the consequences and teachers can concentrate in teaching and closing the gap between children from affluent and disadvantage backgrounds. It the paperwork suffers, who cares? Most certainly it wouldn’t be the pupils or their parents.
      Beside, for how long the NUE would be willing to keep/can afford to keep teachers striking? How generous is going to be the strike fund? Because this isn’t going to be solved in a week or a month. Unless they are prepared to strike for over a term, the government isn’t going to negotiate and teachers need to be able to pay for food, the rent/mortgages and,utilities too.
      Would Teaching Assistants strike too? Now a days most Teaching Assistants work through Agencies and mostly are not members of the NUE or other Trade Unions, if they get sick they don’t get pay and if they join the strike action they would be most probably black listed.
      Hence, what most probably will happen is Teaching Assistants taking on teachers’s roles and the government laughing all the way to the bank. Working to Rule is I believe by far a better option..

      1. Great points Maria!

        At this stage (pre-STRB publication and before the Union starts its member-centred Briefing and Surveying), I think any talk of ‘strike action’ is merely to show that it’s a possibility.

        As Ben Chack’s MS article (about Sharon Graham and Unite, not NEU) said:

        “Ms Graham, who took over from Len McCluskey as general secretary, has been following through on her pledge to be personally involved in disputes.

        And she vowed to have a “laser focus” on jobs, pay and conditions.

        “Collective bargaining is the tried and tested method of improving pay and conditions,” she said.

        “So we need to build organisation, build what I call strike-ready workplaces.

        When we sit across the table from an employer weight of argument isn’t what moves them.

        “It’s what they think is going to happen when we come outside the room.

        “We’ve really got to start looking at what wins, and how do we create power within the unions themselves? I think that has been forgotten.”

        I’m sure that NEU is merely acknowledging that the threat of Strike Action is a valuable opening-position.

        I’m confident that the needs of children will certainly feature in teachers’ eventual decision.

  2. qwertboi and opening position to strike from the NEU could create problems for the NEU and the Trade Union movement as a whole.
    We have just witnessed Sadiq Khan blaming the RMT rather than TfL’s management. I remember back in late 2016 watching on the news Sadiq Khan praising TfL’s management for keeping London’s underground working despite the strike action. We cannot expect any support from Starmer as leader of the opposition either. Hence, it is the government that is in an opening stronger position that the NEU.
    An opening position of Working to Rule would be:
    1-More easily for rank and file teachers to vote in favour by a higher number than going straight for strike action, as their salaries would be protected. Plus I heard that some Academies for example Ashcroft Academy in London as part of it contracts of employment demand that teachers give up the right to strike. Hence, already it would be teachers fearful of joining a strike as it would mean a breach of their contract of employment. They signed the contract in the first instance, hence I don’t believe teachers working with these contracts will vote in favour of strike action. Thus, immediately their would be a division between schools than are willing to strike and schools that would refuse to strike.
    2-Strike action could follow at a more convenient time, for example exam dates that would force the government to pay for extra invigilators for the day.
    3-More difficult for the government to demonise teachers.
    For the NEU to take as an opening position strike action could backfire badly, as you rightly say teachers will take into account the needs of their pupils and I don’t believe they are prepared to strike for months. On the other hand Working to Rule can go on and on for as long as needed.
    Working to Rule might no result in a pay rise immediately but straight away it would deliver better working conditions for teachers. Plus if for example the radiators aren’t working, teachers could stop working and send the pupils home because the school isn’t warm enough. The same if safety measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 haven’t been implemented, they could refuse to allow the pupils into the class rooms. However, they wouldn’t be in strike but rather working to rule and getting pay.

    1. I agree with every point you make Maria.

      In mentioning ‘strike action’ SKWAWKBOX is merely reflecting the line taken by the Union in a Motion last April at its Conference. I, for one, would be encouraged if real-world NEU members adopt the same hard-nosed stance (as the Motion) after they have been Briefed and Surveyed.

      Obviously, teachers are professionals and will put the needs of their students centre-stage. The more exploitative employers know this and will exploit it to save themselves a penny or two.

      Education is a fragmented, commercial market as well as a communal national resource. To my mind, it would be right for members to target employers “who produce unreasonable or unfair pay policies which withhold pay progression from staff or use their policies in unreasonable and unfair ways”. I’m glad the Union leadership says it will also give “full backing, up to and including strike action, to members in schools that are withholding pay progression”.

      Now its up to the professionals at the sharp end to decide how they should collectively achieve their objectives. Power to them in this.

      1. This Labour policy would be a positive move for all workers and would address some of the issues you’ve raised

        Fair pay agreements. “A Labour government will bring together representatives of workers and employers to negotiate pay and conditions in every sector. Collective bargaining in every sector will end the free market free-for-all that encourages undercutting, exploitation and a race to the bottom.”

      2. For goodness sake!!!!!!
        “Fair pay agreements”?
        Who, exactly is going to make employers agree to fair pay if they don’t want to?
        The only protection workers have is the strength of their unions.
        What’s needed is the repeal of Thatcher’s anti-trade union laws.

      3. I would have thought that was obvious, the law, Labour would obviously pass the necessary legislation

      4. Wonderful ………. and who will decide what is fair pay?
        And what if the workers are not satisfied with the offer that the fair pay decision maker has arrived at?
        Presumably you think that Labour will “pass the necessary legislation” to compel them to accept.
        Remember “In Place of Strife”?

      5. The Unions appear to be quite enthusiastic about Labour’s employment and industrial relations policies.
        https://labourlist.org/2021/07/tuc-labours-new-employment-rights-policies-are-popular-and-much-needed/

        Interestingly Sharon Graham is also an enthusiastic supporter of whole sector negotiations.
        “Starmer’s Labour supports sectoral collective bargaining, but while the party is locked out of power in Westminster, Graham is determined not to delay any plans. One of her key ideas is ‘combines’, which means setting up new structures that run along industrial rather than regional lines. For example, she looked at a range of disputes in the bus industry, and last Tuesday – in her “proudest moment” so far – combined them. “I sat in a room with all of the bus reps from the bus industry, practically all of them, from the seven major companies, and said to them, ‘look around you, look who’s in this room – this is the entire negotiating team for the bus industry’.” This strategy will allow them to secure not only pay deals collectively but also to agree their approach to automation long-term. “I get really excited about it,” says Graham.

      6. “This Labour policy would be a positive move for all workers….”

        It possibly would stevieh, but why would I vote for a party that is so ferociously anti-socialist (i.e. anti me) and whose leader made 10 pleges only to get elected but from which he distances himself daily?

        Not only will I never vote for such a party, I will try to make sure no-one else does too.

      7. qwertbo – Perhaps you could explain how Keir has broken each of his pledges and how any of the scores of policies announced at this years conference conflict with his pledges. Somebody putting a few red crosses on a print out isn’t evidence of anything
        https://keirstarmer.com/plans/10-pledges/
        You may not agree with every policy (we seldom get everything we want) but if you actually take the time to go through Labour’s current policies you may be pleasantly surprised.

      8. ………. and “presumably” Labour would amend legislation in the field of education so that there would be a return to national pay rates and Academies and Free Schools would be included and governors would no longer have the discretion to set salaries as they see fit for their school.
        Cloud cuckoo land.

      9. goldbach – Why not, it would seem to fit in with some of the other policy announcements which have been welcomed by the TUC but we’ll probably have to wait until the manifesto is published to find out the full details.

        ▪ Give all workers rights from day one in their jobs: sick pay, holiday pay, parental leave and protection against unfair dismissal.
        ▪ Create one, single worker status, banning bogus self-employment.
        ▪ Ban zero-hour contracts and ensure all contracts come with minimum hours and reflect normal working life, requiring notice of shift changes and pay.
        ▪ End fire and rehire. “Labour will end the scandalous practice of fire and rehire once and for all.”
        ▪ Introduce a new right to flexible working as the default, protections for those with caring responsibilities and a right to switch off.
        ▪ Increase statutory sick pay and make it universal.
        ▪ Sign into law the new deal for working people within the first 100 days of coming to office.

      10. SteveH
        Why are you publishing your Santa letters
        You wish
        Temporary Embarrassment comes from the same sewer as Sadiq Khan
        Wouldn’t touch them or their Blah Blah Blah with a barge pole

      11. Doug – These were undeniably policies that were announced by a shadow cabinet minister at this years conference.

      12. Anyone who seriously imagines that Starmer is going to completely shred current education legislation and return schools to local authority control has either been at the Christmas tipple a little early or is utterly naive.

      13. Steve H Hall….I am suprised that you are interested in any form of democracy after once again for the third time your leader makes the front page of one of your newspapers.. “Cat 🐱smith acuses Sir keir starmer of fueling factionslism and strife inside the Labour party”and gives this as the reason for leaving the shadowy cabinet…..along with the anti democracy stance..and refusing to allow Jeremy Corbyn whos good enough to be a member of the Labour party but not Keir Starmers “anti democracy Labour party alarmingly?All of this in a matter of days front page news of how unfit the Labour party is for government other than as a backer of the Conservative and unionist party government….Shame on you Steve H Hall.!

      14. Joseph – Are you holding up Cambodia and China as paragons of diplomatic virtue.
        Is anyone apart from you listening to her futile gesture.
        Who is this ‘Hall’ guy that you’ve got the hots for

      15. Steve H = “Are you holding up Cambodia and China as paragons of democracy” And “whos this mr Hall you have the hots for” Well yes on the first question mr Hall centrist Dad,and on the second question I rarely get the Hots for anyone and most definitely not men,although I must confess to being stunned by the beauty of the ordinary women here in Cambodia who are unique in being beautiful in mind and body and show the intelligence of a people that overcome Genocide and are quickly rising from the ashes of war with the help of our neighbours China and Vietnam.

      16. Joseph – “Well yes on the first question”

        Oh dear, you really are as stupid as I feared you are.
        So who is this Hall guy that you really don’t have the hots for?

      17. Steve H…..thankyou for your reply in which you say “Oh dear you really are as stupid as I thought were” .I suppose with your class obsession and being what you describe yourself as a “Professional person” you veiw anyone who admits to a poor education as a failure.which I have never tried to hide because it was self inflicted and it never stopped me from advancing my ambitions in your world of capitalism which was easily mastered.by a ignorent uneducated paddy like me.You’ve managed in a double quick time to destroy the Labour party whilst the conservative and unionist party stripped the assets of the country and sent the country into free fall….Enjoy your victory but you and many others realise on here that you are personally complicit in enabling the destruction of the foundations of the welfare state that the Labour party worked against the odds to deliver for the working-class people of Britain over seventy years ago
        .You should be ashamed of yourself mr H

      18. Joseph – Wow! That’s an enormous chip you have on your shoulder.
        I have never, ever used any Irish tropes on these or any other pages. You are more than welcome to try and prove otherwise.
        You are stupid for believing that the Chinese state, or your beloved Cambodia are anything other than authoritarian dictatorships not because you are an “uneducated paddy” (your words, I would never use language like that)
        You are the Tory enabler, not me.

    2. Maria As a life long Trade Unionist I have heard the arguments you made against strike action time out of number. The preferred action of those against going on strike is always working to rule. It doesn’t work. The only effective way for a union to make a point is strike action at the time and not at some later date.
      Of course all sorts of allegations will be made about strike action by the likes of Sadik Khan – so what? Even if the teachers worked to rule they would still be demonised. Thats the way industrial relations are conducted in this country.
      In relation to loss of pay this is usually the main reason workers don’t want to strike but that is taking the shortsighted view. You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs and the long term gains of a decent pay rise outweigh any short term loss. Additionally most Unions have hardship/strike funds so payments can be made to striking members who are in financial difficulty as a result of strike action.
      So Solidarity with the Teachers who if they were treated fairly and decently wouldn’t need to even think about strike action.

      1. querboi when Stevie wonder H Hall centrist Dad starts quoting Cambodia and China we can be certain that hes lost the arguments and its time for the Caribbean bolt hole cocktails.At least we don’t have to put up with the drug 💉abuse that the Speakers having to clean up in parliament.Stevie wonder boy sticks to the old smoking and drinking being a oldy.on a binge.

      2. Joseph – For goodness sake grow up. Who is this Hall guy that you keep obsessing about?

      3. Smartboy, Unions like Unite are amassing large strike funds now. Look at the results Sharon has produced since she was elected. The future for Socialism in this country is obviously through the Union movement definitely not through the cesspit of the Labour Party.

      4. I agree Baz and as was stated by Goldbach above we need to have the antitrade union legislation repealed.
        Labour can’t be a party for both “big business” and workers. In my opinion Unions should demand an undertaking that a Labour government repeal this legislation immediately it takes office. If that undertaking isn’t given then we should stop funding Labour. We have nothing to lose.

  3. I suppose that now the Labour party have retired from the Opposition then any rumblings of discontent with the government must come from the unions.We should welcome any action against this government who are with the help of the Labour party moving the working-class backwards to a time of master and servant.The Virus of neo liberal thinking and draconian laws against the working-class has started to dawn on many people who have been content with the pretend democracy of the Crown and are now looking around and asking but what about us?.We!were!content with the offer of a welfare state allowed by the establishment to appease the five million men and women who were trained to kill after the second world war and came back to a near bankrupt country.The establishment feared these people but not nowadays..they are all dead..with the majority of the trained killers working for the establishment.and indoctrinated into the US and them beliefs.
    .I always thought that this was just a silly conspiracy theory..but not anymore after a pandemic of fear has frightened the majority of the people into submission and acceptance.of human rights abuses pushed through parliament without a murmur even…Our society has been fragmented and beaten but where theres a will there’s a way forward…..We must once again make the establishment frightened of the working-class and fear the majority.

    1. Joseph – For the first time ever the working class didn’t vote for Corbyn’s Labour they voted Tory. It is now the middle class that are in the majority 57% to 43%.

      1. You will soon find out from the”Working class “whos in the majority and its not parasites infesting the Labour party.mr Steve H Hall centrist Dad.

      2. Joseph – At the 18GE 48% of the working class actually voted Tory whilst only 33% voted for Corbyn. It is the first time ever that this has happened.
        It comes as no surprise that you are in denial.
        Who is this ‘Hall’ guy that you’ve got the hots for?

      3. Oh no. He’s lost it again. Some time back I had thought he acknowledged that working class meant more than simply those who work with their hands. We’re now back to the nonsensical idea that, if you work in an office, or a hospital, or a school, you are “middle class”.

      4. goldbach – You can wriggle and squirm all you like but the fact remains that for the first time ever not only did more of the working class vote Tory than voted Labour a significantly higher proportion (by a margin of 15%) of the poorest, most disadvantaged and vulnerable in our society chose to trust Boris and the Tories with their vote in preference to Jeremy and Labour.
        If the Tories being able to legitimately claim for the first time ever to be the party of the working class and gifting the most RW Tory government in generations an unassailable 80 seat majority isn’t the very definition of failure for a Labour leader I don’t know what is

      5. No my friend, it ain’t wriggling and squirming to point out that the working class consists of all those who sell their labour to an employer in order to get their income, and that anyone who fails to understand that is a lost soul.
        As for this consuming hatred of Mr Corbyn, it is 2021 (almost 2022), some people need to learn to move on and deal with what is happening today – it really is good for you. Learn to be positive. Try therapy if necessary.

      6. goldbach – You can play around with definitions all you like but it won’t alter the fact that a significantly higher proportion (by a margin of 15%) of the poorest, most disadvantaged and vulnerable in our society chose to trust Boris and the Tories with their vote in preference to trusting Jeremy and Labour.

      7. Thanks. I’m happy when you use the terminology you have just used. It doesn’t give the impression that you are ignoring the millions of working class people who are in “white collar” jobs. It isn’t “playing around” with definitions, it’s a case of accurately describing people’s positions within the economic system. Best wishes.

      8. goldbach – Or I could just as easily use the commonly accepted shorthand of ‘working class’ or C2DE next time I comment on a similar subject. Your daft sensitivities are your problem

      9. Indeed. We all have sensitivities as you well know. I will refrain from upbraiding you regarding your “shorthand”. I would suggest that you similarly refrain from comment when people advocate for “the left”.
        Peace be with you.

  4. One advantage. probably the only advantage, of the fragmentation of the education service, is that if it were to come to strike action, the NEU could pick off employers one by one and strike pay could be provided by a very small levy on the great majority who were not striking.

    1. Love the idea of an optional levy on teachers not needing to strike.. when a new Labour party successor part/movement is formed, members might pay into this, I know I would want to.

  5. Off message but we can’t ignore the rift between the knight and the deputy leader Angela Rayner.Front page coverage again in the independent.I wonder what Starmers done to upset them as the list of the completely pissed off with Starmer grows longer and wider weekly.ITs embarrassing to see that Labour only makes the front page when the leader of the opposition (alleged)
    fails once again to enlighten anyone and especially Angela Rayner..

  6. Omicron is a anagram of moronic,I wonder if Johnson was in on the new name for the exciting virus that should make a lot of wealthy individuals even Richer.Now about the teachers…sorry the moneys all been spaffed up the wall on Carrabean hols…and lifes tough at the top ask your knight of the realm.?

  7. Smack heads in parliament…I wonder if posters are shocked 😲at “police and sniffer dogs called in to parliament to deal with out of control” drug taking including cocaine?…Independent and RT on the Speakers role into hunting down the Smackheads mps….Weve seen pill popping NEC decision making now its clearly out of control parliament drafting laws against the people whilst “flying high” ….sados really but not suprised in the least.

  8. In England last two years of published statistics for permanent exclusion the figures are 5000 and 8000
    In Finland No1 education system in the world, the figures are Zero and Zero

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