14 September 2011

Welsh-language teaching union UCAC to strike October 5th

Members of UCAC (Undeb Cenedlaethol Athrawon Cymru, "National Union of Teachers of Wales") have overwhelmingly voted to strike in defence of teachers' pensions, the Welsh-language teaching union announced today.

A ballot of 3,500 members returned an 89% YES vote and was followed by the union executive's decision to call a strike day on October 5th. The Wales-only union's decision follows an announcement by UK-wide teaching union NASUWT and Scotland-only teaching union EIS to ballot for industrial action on proposed pension changes, changes which threaten to deprive teachers of tens of thousands of pounds or more in their retirement. Education unions UCU, NUT and ATL took coordinated industrial action on June 30th and plan to again this autumn.

Elaine Edwards, UCAC’s General Secretary said "The fact that members have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a strike shows that they are united in their opinion that the Westminster Government’s attack on public sector pensions is entirely uncalled-for and wholly unfair."

"We know that the Teachers’ Pension Scheme is sustainable. Despite the Government’s rhetoric, sustainability is not what’s driving these changes; they are raiding people’s pension pots as a direct result of the banking crisis. It’s immoral to destroy a system that’s working effectively and giving people security in their old age – just for the sake of political expediency."

When I wrote this on Tuesday, I concluded:
With all but one major education preparing for industrial action, the tasks now become: for public sector union Unison to launch a ballot and urge all its members to prepare for industrial action; and for all public sector unions to coordinate industrial action as part of a one-day public sector strike.
but events have moved past this. Now we need to make sure that every union involved in action on the 30th knows it's a step to something bigger.

In the long run, a single education union should be formed. UCAC emerged from a split with the NUT but the gains made by the Welsh language over the past half-century mean that nobody will dare ignore a Welsh-language caucus; the segmentation of the rest of the sector into NUT/NASUWT/UCU/EIS/etc. is largely an obsolete historical artifact.

While there are deep political differences between the unions, all of them, in these times of stress, are reaching the same inevitable conclusion: organized, coordinated action is necessary. An education federation is the logical next step, so when this dispute is over we are even more prepared for the next one. The cutbacks are training a generation in the need for radical politics and the trade union sector must adapt -- not to the Milibands of the world, but to returning to their role as the instrument of the best layers of the working class.

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