Friday, September 05, 2014
The complexity of unity and the problem of its absence
This link is to the blog of Martin Powell-Davies, a London member of the Executive of the National Union of Teachers and a critic, from the left, of the left-wing leadership of that Union.
I post the link not because I would necessarily share Martin's criticisms of that leadership, but because it's important to be aware of the news which he reports from today's meeting of the NUT Executive, about which I certainly share his disappointment.
By 26 votes to 12, the Executive agreed not to call their members out on strike on Tuesday 14 October alongside members of UNISON, GMB and UNITE in local government.
You can read from Martin on that link the arguments which persuaded the majority of the Executive not to call for action alongside us on 14 October. Whilst I regret the conclusion arrived at, I think it is for members of the NUT to judge those arguments first and foremost.
There can, however, be no doubt that the decision of the NUT Executive makes it more difficult for our action on 14 October to make the impact we seek, and more difficult for us to win members to taking that action. The hand of those who would like to avert further strike action has been strengthened.
There is no union whose members are eager to take strike action over pay - but there is also no union which ought not to encourage its members to take action if they want a fair pay increase. Only national strike action can possibly deliver that outcome for local government workers - and teachers are not in a different position.
The practical failure of the union leaderships to coordinate real action, on the eve of the Trades Union Congress at which delegates from all unions will vote (once more) for such coordination reflects the division and confusion which has been one of the regrettable hallmarks of our movement since the unity of the pensions dispute was broken almost three years ago.
Rank and file activists should also reflect upon our failure to create and sustain a genuine cross-union rank and file network. This is (sadly) an absence which cannot be corrected by initiatives promoted by one or other political party. We don't need rallies - we need to rebuild informal networks to try to avoid further division.
UNISON activists in local government must redouble our efforts to persuade members to take action on 14 October - and UNISON still has the opportunity to unify the action of our members in both health and local government.
Building unity is a complex and difficult task. As rank and file activists we currently lack the tools to do this work, however, we have no option but to keep trying.
Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the EE network.