Friday, January 25, 2008

Learn from the teachers...?

Good news from the National Union of Teachers, who are to ballot for strike action over pay in the next battle over the Government’s pay restraint policy. Their pay body is proposing just 2.45%, amounting to a real terms pay cut of 1.55%! For many younger teachers (as for many young workers in the public sector) the irony (on which Dave Prentis comments) of a Government basing its pay policy on the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) which is rising around 2% but linking interest payments on student loans to the Retail Price Index (RPI) – which truly represents living costs and is rising above 4% - is a little too bitter to appreciate.

The TUC are pledged to coordinate action over public sector pay – although TUC President (and our own General Secretary) did emphasise to the UNISON NEC that this means first and foremost organising “sector by sector” unity.

I am not particularly taken with this sectional approach, but if that is the approach which the leadership is to adopt then let’s see it put into practice now. Local Government workers have submitted pay claims which we know the employers will reject.

We cannot be in any doubt that the employers in local government will not offer us a deal in line with the Retail Price Index, the very least we could even consider settling for. Therefore if the teachers are moving to take action, we need to be preparing ourselves to do the same.

Every local government worker who has ever been on strike knows that united action between teachers and other local government workers maximises the impact of our action.

The TUC are talking to the Government – that’s fine. What we need now though is united action. We have warned the Government, now we need to organise to give that warning meaning.

Discussion should begin now about whether it will be possible to coordinate action between as many teaching unions as possible and as many other local government unions as possible.

Watch this space? Or maybe this one?

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