Leaflet produced by Socialist Alternative in the National Education Union for the next round of strike action on 5 and 7 July.
Rishi Sunak’s suggestion that he will discount the recommendations of the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB) report and introduce an even lower pay ‘rise’ for public sector workers throws the gauntlet down to the trade unions. After years of the rich getting richer, while our pay has been reduced in real terms by over 20%, this is not something we can accept as a fact of life. If Sunak is upping the ante, we need to as well.
We urgently need a strategy for the Autumn term that forces the hand of a weak and listless government and contributes to their demise. We need an intensified programme of action: this is not a symbolic protest but a genuine fight for the future of education and to stop a further erosion of living standards.
Action will need to start early in the Autumn term and should escalate quickly over a matter of weeks, not months.
Fund the strike
Losing a day or two from a pay packet at the moment can be unbelievably stressful. To avoid members being forced back to work because of this, we need a financial strategy.
Hardship funds have been utilised by thousands of members and some districts have been forced to pause payments to deal with the backlog and avoid them being drained.
Our union, having answered the call for financial solidarity from many groups of workers in the past, now needs to make a similar appeal to the movement. We are fighting for the future of public services in general and education in particular and should be bold in appealing for support to win this dispute.
Branches should designate a committee member to work on raising funds locally and we should be given as much support and leeway to do this.
Scrap the STRB: Time to boycott
The Tories set up ‘independent’ pay review bodies to weaken the power of trade unions by removing collective bargaining over pay and conditions. These bodies are never independent, because the government determines the scope of their recommendations and decides ultimately whether to implement it.
The government has been keen to implement their recommendation when it has suited them (when the offer is below inflation or no rise at all) and, when there was a resounding rejection of the pitiful 4.3% offer in March, Keegan said the decision would revert to the STRB.
If the Tories now refuse to implement the 6.5% recommendation, it shows what a scam the STRB set-up actually is. Why should we continue with this charade when it delivers nothing for us?
It is time for our union to be bold in calling for the STRB to be scrapped, to refuse to participate in the process and to demand direct negotiations between unions and government on pay – something the government were forced to return to because of our action.
Do wage rises cause inflation?
One thing we are hearing more of is that public sector wage rises will fuel inflation. The so-called ‘wage/price spiral’ contends that, even if workers see an improvement in their pay packet, this will result in higher prices in the shops and bills and they will still feel financial pain. Inflation is presented by pro-capitalist politicians as a fact of nature. But it is a political choice.
The double digit inflation we have experienced in the last year was not caused by wage rises. In fact, we have all lost 24% in real terms wages since 2010 and nurses have lost 20%.
Compare this to the 101% rise in bankers bonuses since 2008 or the $9.6bn first quarter profits posted by Shell and we start to see where the issue might be.
The ‘cost of living crisis’ is actually a direct result of profiteering in the private sector, but Sunak and the Tories refuse to take money from them and instead expect us to take more pain.