Partnership fight provides real opportunity for return to activism in teachers' unions


THE BATTLE AGAINST the latest "social partnership" deal - The Programme for Prosperity and Fairness - in the teachers' unions has thrown up the best chance for decades for the building of a real rank-and-file oppositional group within the three teacher unions. Activists in all three unions - the INTO, TUI and ASTI - have united in "Teachers Against Partnership" and delivered a strong message to the leadership of the unions that passivity among the rank-and-file is coming to an end.

Having witnessed the damage done to the British education system by "Performance Related Pay", it was this issue which was the spark which ignited the anger of many teachers over the past couple of months. In particular, the fact that the General Secretary of the INTO was seen to be one of its strongest advocates drew the ire of members. The ASTI felt so strongly about this issue - and about the fact that teachers have given away huge amount of 'productivity' for no reward in recent years - that they withdrew from the ICTU and lodged a 30% pay claim.

The initiative for this action in the ASTI came, not from the union leadership, but from a membership which has been growing in anger and confidence. Likewise, rank-and-file members in the INTO and TUI have been taking on the union leadership. The issue of Performance Related Pay drew over 150 teachers to a public forum in early February. From this forum grew a strong anti-partnership campaign which produced leaflets and took the arguments to branch meetings as they discussed the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness.

As a result of the campaign there is now a brilliant chance for the formation of a strong opposition grouping across the three unions, which will take on the leaderships of the unions. It is important that the opportunity is grasped to establish a cross-union solidarity group which will raise the issues and continue to build confidence among union members.

The first steps in the formation of this grouping have already taken place, and it is to be hoped that the good work begun will be continued