Teachers ‘have been betrayed’

The National Union of Teachers has called off further industrial action over pay, even though a majority of members voted for more strikes. Union leaders said there was no mandate for action because fewer than a third of the 200,000 ballot papers issued were returned. Mike Brooks of Waltham Forest NUT gave us his reaction to the news that the executive has now accepted the New Labour government’s 2.45% offer, which is well below the rate of inflation.

I am disappointed by the ballot result, after campaigning for a "yes" vote in my secondary school, along with many other members of staff. I have attended several general meetings where the focus was on galvanising the NUT members, and strategies about how we could win. However, I had the distinct feeling that once the executive committee decided not to strike again in the previous academic year, the momentum was lost, and so was the rationale for why we were striking in the first place. Because, if we went on strike, as we did back in April, and the government did not even acknowledge our strike, let alone start to listen to our demands, then surely the logical course of action was to hold a further strike until we got what we wanted. Even myself, who is a relatively young trade unionist, can understand the underlying aim of industrial action.

I feel a growing sense of cynicism towards the executive committee as to why they called a strike in the first place: perhaps they planned to have just a one-day strike to appease the left trade unionists in the organisation, who were pressurising for a ballot, and giving them a day was a sort of concession. One cannot help but speculate, when the general mood of the grassroots union members was for industrial action, until we got a better deal offered to us. No, instead we have been betrayed by those who are leading us, for the desperately bad decision of stalling (or perhaps deliberately stopping) any future action.

I was overwhelmed with a feeling of solidarity with my fellow young teachers, who were at the electric rally in Westminster hall, which was attended by a very vocal 3,000 teachers packed into the hall, giving the place a wonderful glow of purpose. The majority of the executive committee must have been at the same rally that I was at, so how come they did not listen to the young teachers who were on the platform speaking about the tough financial decisions they were having to make, all because they followed their hearts and took up teaching as a profession? I too have had to make sacrifices: I live in a shared house with others, and I have many financial burdens around my neck which need to be lifted before I can even think about rustling up the money for a deposit on a house. How can I go forward in my teaching career knowing that I have been losing out on thousands of pounds of pay, due to the below-inflationary pay deal which has been accepted?

Lastly, I just wanted to comment on the fact that the government has been using the CPI index to gauge what the future pay settlement should be, when in the government’s own literature it states that Retail Prices Index should be used. Funnily enough, my student loan is going up at the RPI rate, when the government PROMISED that my student loan would match inflation, and therefore reassured many graduates that the interest would be in line with future pay settlements. NOT IF YOU ARE A TEACHER. A disgrace.

Mike Brooks
Waltham Forest NUT

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