Last month the National Union of Teachers’ Executive
announced a ballot for a 24 hour strike on 24th April for all
school-based members. The ballot is currently underway, having started on
February 24th and will end on 31st March.
The ballot is the union’s response to the three year pay
deal announced by the government in January. The government’s offer is an
increase fixed at a level below the true rate of inflation. This offer follows
from previous below-inflation pay deals which teachers have had since 2005. Since
that time and over the next three years teachers are facing, in real terms, an
effective pay cut and a continual drop in their living standards.
The actual offer for September 2008 is an increase of 2.45%,
which is then followed in September 2009 and September 2010, with further
increases of 2.3%.
The announcement of the pay deal was cynically presented as
a generous offer by Ed Balls the current New
Labour Education Secretary as being at the same rate as inflation. This is
part of the government’s con-trick which uses the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
This way of measuring inflation was introduced by Gordon Brown in December
2003. However, it is conveniently below the old measure which uses the Retail
Price Index (RPI). The CPI does not include several items that affect the
living standards of working people, such as mortgages. The reality is that the
current level of the RPI (which does include mortgages) is 4 per cent,
while that of the official CPI is only 2.1 per cent.
The New Labour spin
machine attempts to present the pay offers as generous and the likes of Ed
Balls thinks that an easy headline will hide the reality of people’s experience
on the ground. This is not the case. Teachers with other public sector workers
are increasingly angry at the attacks on their living standards. The NUT has
worked out that from 2005 to the end of next year, teachers at the top of the
pay scale will be more the £4,000 worst off in real terms – than if pay had
been kept in line with inflation – that’s some pay cut!
This squeezing of teachers’ pay comes alongside other
changes in the pay structure which are reducing responsibility payments for
thousands of teachers, at the same time workloads are increasing.
NUT Executive is to be applauded for making an active response to the
government’s insulting offer; all NUT members should vote YES in the ballot to
give the executive a weapon to move forward in a wider campaign. However, a
single one-day strike can only act as an initial warning to the government. A
warning they will ignore if it is not followed up by further industrial action.
A YES vote for the strike should be a focus to mobilise the membership around
the issue of deteriorating pay and conditions with a developing plan for a
concerted campaign of action.