NUT

Union free school no more

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The strike at STEM6 Academy in north London against zero hours contracts and for union recognition shows that if you get organised and fight hard you can win.

Early in October 2013 a message arrived at the Islington NUT office from a teacher at the newly opened STEM6 Academy telling us that she had never been a union rep before and asking for our support in negotiating teachers' terms and conditions.

The three months which followed saw her lead an often bitter fight which, although taking place in a small workplace, has won a big victory with major implications for other free schools, as well as important lessons for workers facing nasty anti-union employers.

Mapping the struggle

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I have been a socialist and active trade unionist all my adult life. As a local National Union of Teachers (NUT) officer it sometimes feels like we can be bogged down with case work, having to deal with bullying managers and teachers broken by the pressures of the job. However the last few weeks have been the most exciting of my working life.

The TUC demo on 26 March started to mobilise people for what everyone knew would be the battle ahead. Better organised schools had delegations on the demo and returned back to school more confident that they were part of a much bigger movement.

But the real momentum started after NUT conference over Easter, spurred on by the fact that another teaching union, the ATL, had voted unanimously to ballot for strike action. This is a union that has never taken strike action in its 127-year history. The feeling was, if they are prepared to strike then things have really shifted.

The best is yet to come

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Holding the Islington NUT banner at the corner of Parliament Square last month, just before Eton-educated David Cameron and his new fag, Nick Clegg, were about to lead their MPs to vote for a trebling of university fees, my mind flashed back to October 1968.

Then, as a 17 year old apprentice telephone engineer, I had joined the second big anti Vietnam War demonstration that year to the US embassy in Grosvenor Square.

In some ways the protests were similar: the violence of the cops, the thousands of students who fought back and the rapidity with which things can change. But there is an important difference.

Schools out!

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The National Union of Teachers (NUT) is preparing to ballot over 200,000 members in England and Wales for strike action against below inflation pay rises.

The ballot starts on 28 February and NUT activists are confident that it will lead to the first national strike by teachers in more than 20 years, on Thursday 24 April.

The decision to ballot was taken after the government announced a recommendation from the School Teachers' Review Body (STRB) that teachers should get an increase of 2.45 percent in their pay in September 2008. This would be the first year of a three-year pay deal, which would see below inflation pay rises until 2010.

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