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Andrew Price


Our fight is a political fight

(May 1980)

From Militant, No. 504, 23 May 1980, p. 14.
Transcribed by Iain Dalton.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Tories’ first year in office has been a continuous onslaught on our education services. This is the stark challenge facing the annual conference of the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education.

As the NEC report points out, the cuts already imposed on the Manpower Services Commission have had a serious effect on further education courses and the cuts the MSC will make in 1980 will have a more drastic effect in the academic year 1980–1. The swingeing increases in overseas students’ fees will have a similar effect in jeopardising a number of valuable courses.

In the field of higher education, the government limit on the financial pool for advanced courses will, as the NEC rightly points out, have “disastrous consequences for public sector higher education.”

On the pay front, contrary to the exaggerated claims of the Tory press, most teachers in further and higher education gained very little from the Clegg settlement. In fact NATFHE members will have to wait until September 1981 before they have had a year’s salary as agreed by Clegg. This is from an agreement on our 1979 salaries!

Clegg has failed to restore the salaries as outlined by the Houghton settlement in 1975, except for a small number of badly-paid teachers, and has enormously increased pay differentials.

Last week the final insult came when Clegg reported that he had “miscalculated by 4 per cent”. It is doubtful whether management will try to claw this back; almost certainly they will try to take it from the 1980–1 claim.

Conference should draw up a balance sheet from this particular experience and the union must resolve never again to be caught in the trap of comparability deals.

All this reinforces the urgency of the pay settlement of 1980–1. With the present high rates of inflation, the NEC has estimated that any settlement below 20% will represent a devaluation of Clegg before the members have received it.

The support for a half-day strike in the recent branch ballot on further sanctions should negotiations break down, is a positive indication of the discontent on pay. Members now expect action to secure a 20% settlement.

As the struggle against Thatcher’s policies become more intense, NATFHE members have been forced to recognise the need for political action. As the ATTI, NATFHE was the first teachers’ union to affiliate to the TUC. It should now set the lead amongst teachers by affiliating to the Labour Party.

The Socialist Education Association will be holding a fringe meeting as the start of a campaign for NATFHE affiliation, a campaign which should be fully supported by the membership as a whole. Only by posing the socialist alternative to the free market madness of Thatcher and Joseph, can we secure a decent education system for our members and the youth of Britain.

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Last updated: 14 November 2016