Thursday, 7 November 2013

Executive Meeting: November 2013

The full Executive met at Hamilton House on Thursday 7th October.

The President, Beth Davies, opened by reminding the meeting that today is Equal Pay Day- the point at which the average woman begins effectively working for free when compared to the average man. The NUT has signed a joint letter in the Guardian signed by, amongst others, Ceri Goddard of the Fawcett Society, Gloria De Piero and Sharon Hodgson- shadow Ministers for Women and Equalities, and Natalie Bennett, the leader of the Green Party.

The meeting elected Heather McKenzie as our nominee to the TUC Women's Committee.  The President thanked Max Hyde for her long service in this post.

Amanda Martin, Angela Jardine and Marilyn Bater were elected to attend as the Executive representatives to attend the TUC Women's Conference.

Betty Joseph was elected as our nominee for the TUC Black Workers' Committee, Annette Pryce for the TUC LGBT Committee, and Mandy Hudson for the TUC Disabled Workers' Committee.

Christine Blower reported.

She welcomed the Government's "pause" on the implementation of parts of the Lobbying Bill ("the Gagging Bill") however, this still represents a threat, not just to trade unions but to many charities and other organisations. The section on Trade Union membership records, which will allow a Government regulator wide access to membership records.   The TUC has organised an e-mail "lobby a Peer" campaign, and members are encouraged to sign up before the Lords vote on 11th November.

Christine reiterated our support for the No More Page Three campaign, and our participation was noted in the Scottish Parliament.

The Centre for Labour and Social Studies (CLASS)  conference was very productive- Alex Kenny spoke on behalf of the Union, and Christine urged members to look at the very good materials on their website.

Christine was proud to attend the anti-racist and anti-fascist rally in Liverpool last month. This was organised by Unite, and supported by many NUT local associations.

Christine drew attention to the new Edu-Facts service- this will empower members to quickly rebut some of the propaganda from the DfE and OFSTED.  We have had very positive responses from members- although Christine made clear that these are intended to be about making facts and evidence available to members, and were not a replacement for the policy guidance briefings etc, we give to members and reps about what action to take where there are issues in schools.


Michael Gove has written to Christine and the NASUWT to offer talks on the dispute. However, the letter appears to show that the Secretary of State has no idea of what constitutes a trade dispute, as Gove wishes to meet with all of the teachers unions- including the head teacher unions, and non-TUC Voice; but also mentions Edapt the anti-union legal insurance company- who make no pretence at being involved in representing teachers in policy matters or pay negotiation !  

We have already put our joint campaign plans into the public domain, and remain committed to this, including strike action in the Spring term if necessary.

She made clear that while we are happy to meet with other trade unions when appropriate,  he can only discuss resolving our trade dispute with those organisations who are in a dispute  (it's not rocket science !)

We continue to talk to other unions in kindred disputes- such as the FBU who are striking to defend their pensions, and have sent messages of solidarity, and equally with the CWU who are in dispute in the Royal Mail and the Crown Post Offices.   We have also been approached to support the PCS campaign against the closure of  HMRC advice centres.  The Trade Union Co-Ordinating Group meets next week, which includes a number of unions in current disputes.

Deputy General Secretary, Kevin Courtney reported:-

Kevin referred to the Pay Policy campaigns. A number of areas have achieved compliant or very nearly compliant policies, but there remain areas and individual schools where we have unacceptable policies, and need to escalate to school-based action where needed.

Most areas have a 6 point national scale still; however a small cluster of authorities are sticking with 11 points (so-called half points) and these need to be challenged. Kevin reminded us that the key question is not about LA policies, but about what policies are being adopted in individual schools.  Reps and local officers need to establish the will of members in individual schools without compliant pay policies, to take sustained (paid) strike action where we can.

The action is, of course to support members in individual schools- but our aim remains to pressurise Michael Gove and the DFE to move back towards an agreed national pay policy for all schools.

On November 27th, there will be a lobby of Parliament, where Christine Blower and Chris Keates will be speaking at an afternoon (4pm) meeting hosted by John Cryer MP. The focus of building for this will be encouraging members and school reps to write to MP's and Gove.  Material will be provided for this shortly.

Kevin reminded us that we are in the run-up to a General Election, and MP's particularly in marginal constituencies, will be listening intently to constituents' concerns !

We continue to expose financial scandals and bad practice in Free Schools and Academies- we will keep on doing so- exposing the reality of Gove's free-market approach to education. Kevin also predicts that teacher recruitment and school places planning will be hit hard by these policies, and encouraged us to engage with parents and the community on these issues.

There was a wide ranging discussion around all of these issues- and a motion tabled. 

I made a contribution about the scandal of Edapt being spoken of as part of the discussions with the Secretary of State- they are a clear (and, seemingly proudly) anti-union organisation, which doesn't make any claim to speak collectively on behalf of  teachers.  As trade unions, we are subject to immense regulation and interference from Government (even before the sections of the Lobbying Bill intended to allow snooping through our membership records.)  I stated that we need to challenge what legal basis Edapt have to be consulted on behalf of workers in trade or contractual discussions- and why they are not therefore subject to all of the restrictions, regulations and interference that we suffer as trade unions !

A motion was tabled to strengthen the position about the action- observing that what is on the table at the moment would not constitute meaningful discussions- it was not focused on our trade dispute, and appeared to sidestep the issues of dispute and bring in organisations who are not in dispute. If there is no movement, we need to be pushing to declare  further joint action sooner than was originally proposed.   This was passed by 34 (including me) to 8, with one abstention. .

Elsewhere in the meeting, the following points were discussed and agreed:
  • The Salaries committee reluctantly recommended agreed to accept the 1% offer on the Soulbury scale- this recognised that there has been the promise to discuss issues of job evaluation, local consultation and negotiation on other issues that have already been under discussion.
  • The Education, Equalities Professional Development Committee proposed motions from the committee to go forward for Annual Conference on Initial Teacher Education and CPD; SEN Reforms and School Places.  It also brought forward a motion for TUC Women's Conference on stereotyping.
  • The Resource Management Committee proposed the setting up of a Task Group to look at the issue of Executive electoral areas  (as the occupant of the largest single-member district I have a particular interest in this)  
  • Two motions for NUT Annual Conference were brought forward from the International sub-committee, and agreed: one on Latin America, and one on the effects of education (eg privatisation) from the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.
  • John Holmes (our nominee) reported on the positive work of the Schools Music Association

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