The NASUWT played a key role in this year’s TUC Congress, proposing two successful motions, hosting several well-attended fringe meetings and addressing delegates on a variety of other issues. Teaching Today outlines the Union’s contribution.
On the Fringes
Videos of speakers and further details at www.nasuwt.org.uk
(Photos of Ed Balls, Lawrence Hunt, Dr Patrick Roach, Chris Keates)
Dereliction of Duty
Shadow Secretary of State for Education Ed Balls pledged to continue to work hand in hand with the NASUWT to fight the Government’s deleterious programme of education reforms as he addressed a fringe meeting jointly hosted by the NASUWT and UCATT, the construction workers’ union.
Mr Balls commended the Union’s work to highlight the dangers of the Government’s direction of travel on education, particularly the NASUWT-led rally in Westminster in July to protest against the axing of the BSF programme.
He told delegates that the huge turnout in London demonstrated the public anger at the cancellation of BSF, a decision, he stated, that typifies the Government’s attitude to education and public services.
“The link from BSF to their education policy goes beyond a collection of buildings: it is part of a wider ideological shift,” he said, adding: “It is radical, dangerous and hugely divisive.”
The devastating effect on local authority budgets was emphasised by Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT, who explained that they have been left with a £203 million bill for BSF programmes that have already been committed to.
“The Government has claimed that there is no alternative to the cuts, but it is now the job of the trade union movement to expose the truth about the Government’s plans,” Ms Keates urged.
“We need to educate the public about the implications of the changes this Government is bringing in,” she said. “Now is the time to act, now is the time to champion our young people and now is the time to champion education.”
Lawrence Hunt, UCATT, provided moving personal testimony on how the cancellation of the building programme was having a devastating effect on the construction industry and had cost him his job: “The millionaires in the Cabinet claim we are all in this together. This is utter nonsense. They sit in their mansions, getting richer, while families are left to rot in bed and breakfasts and bedsits.”
Forced Labour in Burma
Trade unionists pledged to press the UK Government and the international community to take effective action against the systematic human rights abuses being perpetrated by the dictatorship in Burma.
Ahead of next month’s elections, NASUWT Deputy General Secretary Dr Patrick Roach chaired a fringe meeting exploring the situation in Burma and how trade unions can help to end the abuse.
Mary Hla, Campaigns Officer from Burma Campaign UK, a pressure group supported by the NASUWT, painted a shocking picture of the use of forced labour, rape, imprisonment and torture against trade unionists, ethnic minorities and anyone who dares to criticise the military regime.
Appealing for continued support from the trade union movement, Ms Hla said: “I believe that one day Burma will be free and that Burmese workers will have the chance to hold a Congress in their own land. To quote Aung San Suu Kyi, ‘Please use your liberty to promote ours’.”
Robin Hood Tax
The NASUWT has backed the creation of a new ‘Robin Hood Tax’ designed to ensure that the financial institutions that created the economic crisis pay for their mistakes. The Union is among a coalition of trade unions, campaign groups and lobbyists demanding the introduction of a 0.05% tax on all transactions conducted by global financial institutions.
It is estimated that such a levy would raise around £20 billion per annum, which could be used to protect public services and tackle poverty around the globe. In contrast, the Government’s planned 2.5% rise in VAT, which will hit the poorest in our society hardest, will swell Treasury coffers by £11 billion per year.
Speaking at a fringe debate on introducing the tax, Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT, said: “The Robin Hood Tax is a viable and sensible alternative to the regressive and destructive programme of cuts planned by this Government. We need to raise awareness among the public and demand the creation of what will be a small burden for the financial sector but of massive importance to ordinary people’s lives.”
Championing equality in an era of financial cutbacks was the theme of a fringe chaired by NASUWT President Chris Lines.
NASUWT Deputy General Secretary Dr Patrick Roach warned against the dangers of the ‘Big Society’ idea of the Coalition Government and the perils of privatisation.
He commented: “This Coalition Government simply isn’t interested in the equality impact of the reforms it is pushing through. That is why the NASUWT is backing the Fawcett Society’s legal challenge on the emergency budget. For young people, the Con-Dem cuts mean increased youth unemployment, fewer university and skills training places and a scrapheap of the Future Jobs Fund, which actually supported 18- 24 year olds into the workplace.”
Dr Roach also highlighted the reduction in support and funding programmes for getting disabled people into employment as well as the disproportionately negative impact on minority ethnic group workers. The removal of the requirement to report homophobic bullying incidents, he added, is further evidence of a “shameful” Conservative record on equality.