By Socialist Alternative members in the NEU
This year’s elections to the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the National Education Union (NEU), which were announced in May, has strengthened the authentic voice of socialism at a national level.
This year, James Kerr, Socialist Alternative member and local Assistant Secretary of the Lewisham branch, stood for one of the London regional seats. James was elected unopposed, largely because of his campaign profile and long-standing experience in the region. James has been waging a relentless campaign against academisation in his borough where strike action has forced the governing bodies to reconsider their proposals, as well as mobilising effective strike action in his area during the long-running pay dispute.
Socialist Alternative was also supporting Louise Lewis for one of the Yorkshire seats, who had been elected two years ago following a very high profile campaign against her unfair dismissal in Huddersfield. This year, four women and one man were competing for three regional seats, which made the campaign a much greater challenge. Louise has been very effective on the NEC, winning the fight for equality rights and better support for victimised reps but still had to beat off a challenge from two other candidates in her branch. However she has won her seat again and will continue to be a strong force for change on the NEC.
This year, the NEC has been slimmed down to a smaller working body but there have also been some generational changes suggesting a relatively newer intake. There is an urgent need to repeat the outcome of the General Secretary election where Daniel Kebede was successfully elected as the sole left candidate against his right-wing challenger. Given the challenges now facing the NEU, a discussion is opening up to address the realignment of all the left forces in the union. Socialist Alternative will be instrumental in helping to bring this about, especially now our voice on the NEC has been strengthened.
Important work ahead
The inbox for the new NEC is already overflowing. Top of the pile is winning the pay dispute which now needs to go into a higher gear. The union has to win a second pay ballot, secure massive support for strike action taking place at the beginning of July, and urgently coordinate action with all other education unions which have also begun balloting. Coordination needs to be extended to all other unions with strike mandates, or seeking fresh mandates, including RCN, RMT, ASLEF etc.
The government is also gearing up for a huge attack on trans students in schools as part of their wider culture wars agenda (see page 6 for more on this). The union cannot afford to fudge or avoid this issue and must challenge the government, whilst standing in solidarity with these students. A Socialist Alternative-inspired model motion on trans rights for branches and the NEC is already in circulation and attracting support from members.
The union must also address the tricky issue of how to win a strike ballot for support staff in schools, and resolve the ongoing internal battle with the other support staff unions which are resisting the NEU’s demand for full negotiating rights for this important group of staff. Support staff looking to take action alongside other educators is a positive step, and it is a collective duty for the unions as a whole to give a fighting lead, rather than competing for members.
NEU members have been thrown into a massive pay struggle with the Tories and have responded with determination and resolve. The next few months will be critical for the union to ensure that it emerges strengthened and successful. Socialist Alternative will continue to be a central part of this ongoing battle.
- All out to win the reballot! The NEU must lead a fighting campaign to win a ‘yes’ vote to ensure that action can be taken to win their pay ballot
- Coordinate all action in the Autumn across education unions, and escalate between other sectors with strike mandates! The best chance to win the demands is through wide, collective action
- Oppose the new legislation to ‘out’ LGBTQ students! Stop the vile ‘culture wars’ being espoused by the Tories