The NEU’s campaign for an above inflation pay increase is at a crossroads. As preparations ramp up this weekend for Wednesday’s strike and a mass London rally on Budget Day the NEU leadership have suspended strike action in Wales.
An earlier below inflation offer from the Welsh government also led to the suspension of action, only for it to be reinstated after rejection by the Welsh membership. This second suspension of action, made hastily on Friday 10 March without the consent of the members who voted for strike action raises serious questions about union democracy which will undoubtedly be an issue at the Easter Conference.
NEU Cymru members will be wondering how serious the NEU leadership are about winning this dispute when they seem so keen to drop action on a whim. They will be dismayed when they see the terms of the offer.
An 11.8% headline pay rise sounds close to the NEU target of 12% but the offer is to run over two years and not one year as intended, meaning members’ pay will fall even further behind this year with no way of knowing what inflation will be like next year.
Acceptance of the offer would breach the no detriment principle; this is a smack in the face of solidarity to teachers in England who will continue to fight for an offer which matches inflation if members in Wales accept this below inflation offer.
The offer contains nothing at all for support staff, who in Wales met the ballot threshold and were also on strike. If this deal is accepted by members, it will mean they will not be able to continue with the dispute on pay, and will feel marginalised by the union leadership.
Socialist Alternative urges NEU Cymru members to vote NO and maintain unity with members in England.
Given the recent settlement of the teachers’ pay claim in Scotland at 12.3%, alongside the proposed Welsh suspension, it seems the General Secretaries are seeking to use these two developments as a lever to prise negotiations out of a Tory government which is steadfastly ignoring such requests. In reality the suspension of action in Wales weakens the movement and robs it of momentum.
It is vital that the strike is reinstated in Wales and we immediately go early with fresh, extended strikes after the Easter break. Socialist Alternative supports the introduction of a programme of escalating action with strikes of three days per week and potentially targeting SATs week in order to leverage the government on this question, and to prepare financially for this with detailed advice on accessing hardship funds, raising money and budgeting to enable us to win. We will support such proposals at the annual Conference at Easter. It is also important that we coordinate this action with other unions with active strike ballots for maximum effect, as is happening on March 15th with 7 more unions striking with us on the day. This government is weak and can be forced to make further concessions, which means we have to instil confidence in our members that we can win, and develop a fighting united approach to a pay breakthrough.
Socialist Alternative demands:
- Unity in action across England and Wales
- Build for extended strikes in the summer term
- A fully funded 12% pay increase