Sunday, 2 March 2014

Executive Report: February 2014

The Full Executive met at Hamilton House on 27th February.

The meeting opened by electing our representatives to two important campaigning events:  Nick Grant, Marilyn Harrop, Alex Kenny and Roger King were elected to represent the Union on the People's Assembly.  John Holmes and John Pemberthy were nominated to represent the Union at a European trade union summit in Brussels.

General Secretary, Christine Blower reported.

We are very pleased with the huge success of our programme of street stalls, disseminating information and gathering petition signatures opposing Michael Gove,  as part of our
Stand up for Education campaign.  Christine made clear that this is running parallel to our Trade Dispute with the Secretary of State; while we are taking strike action over pay, pensions and workload, we also want to see a radical change in education policy, and it is vital that we engage parents and the public in this wider campaign.

Christine had recorded an interview for the Sunday Politics about what Gove was doing wrong, and what Labour need to do differently. The programme was scheduled to carry a studio interview with Labour's spokesman, Tristram Hunt.  She noted the public derision at his decision to cross a UCU picket line to deliver, of all things, a lecture on Marx and Engels.  Apparently, Tristram Hunt is a member of three trade unions (Unite the Union, shopworkers' union Usdaw and ceramics union Unity, but not UCU despite his previous career as a university lecturer. So, seemingly he has time not just to carry out his duties as an MP and shadow minister, not just to undertake occasional lecturing work, but presumably does a few shifts in the supermarket at the weekend, and a bit of commercial pottery too.... ?)

The TUC General Council has confirmed there will be a national demonstration in the Autumn as part of the ongoing Britain Needs a Pay Rise campaign. This will be on October 18th, and we need to organise to get members to attend- and work alongside our local Trades Councils.

The TUC has also been organising a series of round-table discussions with the Labour front bench teams- the first, recently, was on the topic of housing. The next is on pay, with a focus on low pay and the Living Wage campaign. Christine also wants the fairness of the pay progression systems in the public sector to be included in this meeting.

There has been some minor progress in the campaign against the provisions of the Lobbying Bill- some of the worst excesses have been defeated in the Lords, and the lead-in time to the provisions to allow state access to our detailed membership records has now been extended to after the next General Election, and there is some optimism that if there is a Labour Government, it will maintain its current position to repeal those provisions.

Christine encouraged members to look at the CLASS report on Banking Reform which was published this week, and also the new campaign video for the Robin Hood Tax, again featuring Bill Nighy as the "greedy banker"  Christine and Kevin have attended and spoken at a number of People's Assembly events- and, as Christine reminded us: "there is life outside London!"

March 22nd sees two important events: the NUT's Unions Learning Representatives conference in London, and also a Unite Against Fascism march and rally in Trafalgar Square, to coincide with the United Nations Day Against Racial Discrimination.  Our Professional Unity conference is to take place in Hamilton House on 1st March, and numbers have already needed to be extended.  There are confirmed speakers from the ATL and NAHT, and a video message from ASCL.

Christine highlighted the new Expert View section on the website- publishing articles from academic and other expert contributors. This is intended to replace the work of the now discontinued Education Review paper publication.  She commended an article from Professor Peter Mortimore where he compares the education systems in the Nordic countries with that of England and Wales- where he states that "some of the best teaching he's seen has been in England and Wales, and the worst fragmentation of the education system is also in England...."

Christine reported on a number of International campaigns. 8th March is International Women's Day- she will be speaking at an event in Cardiff, while incoming National President Max Hyde will be in Brighton. 

On the same day, there is also a commission being held by the Cuba Solidarity Campaign, of which we are a long standing affiliate.  Education International continues its work to support the Bahraini Teachers Union, which is still under attack- and the General Secretary remains in prison. There is an Amnesty International campaign for his release.

There was some discussion about the situation in Ukraine. Christine acknowledged that this is a complex situation that is disastrous for many. We are working with the European Trade Union Congress to support independent trades unions in the country. The burning of what has been referred to in the media as the "trade union house" has meant that our sister teachers union has lost its home and resources. There may be an appeal for financial support- this will be co-ordinated via the ETUC or Education International.

Deputy General Secretary, Kevin Courtney reported on the developments with the Trade Dispute.

Kevin reminded us to read and distribute information in the Reps Briefing- particularly as this is now highlighting the school-by-school action over pay policies etc. We need to focus our energies in building the national action campaign, and Kevin highlighted the three key strands:-

Pressurising Politicians: Members continue to engage in excellent lobbying activities. in Ipswich, NUT members lobbied Tory MP Ben Gummer, and received a 13 page reply, 9 pages of which attempted to highlight Michael Gove's "positive words" about teachers !  In Hull, NUT members had a positive meeting with Alan Johnson, on behalf of the Labour MP's for the city. Other lobbying campaigns are underway- it was noted that the Liberal Democrats appear to be targeting Michael Gove within the coalition.

Engage with and Inform Parents:  The Street Stalls are developing this campaign well- Kevin noted that he had attended a well supported stall in Hackney, with Christine at Hammersmith and Fulham and Jerry Glazier in Southend. Many others are scheduled- please let Hamilton House know if you are planning one. The People's Assembly and the Unite the Union Community Branches are keen to add their support to these events.

Preparing for the Strike Action:  School reps are strongly urged to register for the online membership list tool, and check that these are up to date. We also have a free membership offer, and this should be used to recruit members to the Union.

The Union met with Dfe Civil Servants to plan the talks- alongside the other six recognised teachers unions, but not anti-union organisation Edapt. This was still simply for agenda-setting for the series of meetings that are scheduled. The first formal meeting will be on Pay Policy- although Gove still insists that the scope of the meeting is just to discuss "implementation of Government Policy" which he insists is "fixed".   There is also now time allocated to discuss the specific trade dispute with just NUT and NASUWT.

The union is maintaining up-to-the-moment reports of the progress (or not) in the talks on our website- you can read these here:

Kevin celebrated the victory in getting the Government to release the findings of the teachers workload survey. This is expected to be published by the 4th March (it has been published- see information below)   We know that the survey will show a dramatic increase in teachers working time: and we need to highlight that as well as being a workload issue in its own right, how much (all ?) of that increase has been taking teachers away from the classroom rather than actually teaching children !

More information on the workload survey can be read here.

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