MEMBERS OF BRITAIN’S largest education union, the NUT, have voted overwhelmingly to support strike action in schools across England.
The 92% Yes vote in a month-long ballot came in response to the threat posed to teachers’ pay, terms and conditions by the government’s continued drive to turn state and voluntary aided schools into academies. At the same time the government looks set to impose drastic funding cuts on schools in many inner city areas.
The turnout, however, was a disappointing 24.5% despite evidence that the union made a serious effort to boost members’ participation. Fortunately, the staggeringly high ballot thresholds imposed by the Tories’ Trade Union Act 2016 are not yet in effect.
Though the union is publicly committed to a campaign of industrial action, the NUT’s acting General Secretary, Kevin Courtney, has thus far announced a single strike day of 5 July. The main unions for school support staff, the GMB and Unison, have both adopted policy at their June conferences that should pave the way for official strike ballots early in the autumn, creating the possibility of an alliance that could pose a real threat to the government’s academies programme.
Meanwhile, teaching assistants at Labour controlled councils in Derby and County Durham are already waging battles against drastic pay cuts, with Unison members in Derby staging a one-day strike last month and action likely in Durham before the term ends.
On 23 June Unison’s conference gave Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, a rapturous reception as he became the first ever Labour leader to address the union’s conference since its formation in 1993.