Duncan Hallas

Teachers demand strike action

(15 February 1969)

From Socialist Worker, No. 109, 15 February 1969, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

ON SATURDAY (February 15) the National Union of Teachers is holding a special conference in London to decide on acceptance or rejection of the employers’ final pay offer. The executive, split by 28 votes to 10, is recommending acceptance.

Teachers are legally bound by the Teachers Remuneration Act to compulsory arbitration unless a settlement is reached.

None of the opponents of acceptance have any faith in arbitration.

They want strike action to force the government to make a bigger offer together with a refusal by the union to participate in any arbitration farce.

Many workers probably think that teachers are pretty well-off. Some are, but the ordinary teacher on the basic scale gets £15 7s 8d a week minimum, rising to £28 15s a week maximum after 14 years’ continuous service. London teachers get £1 12s 8d extra.

The employers are offering an increase of 7.5 per cent on the minimum and 6.6 per cent on the maximum. This may not seem too bad, but it is the first increase for two years and it has to last until 1971.

Just to get back in real terms to the position of two years ago, we need, on the government’s own cost of living statistics, an increase of not less than 9 per cent. What we face, therefore, is a cut in real wages.


The NUT is traditionally non-militant. This is because of the illusion cherished by many teachers that they are professional and middle-class, and also because the union at national level is dominated by head teachers (that is, administrators) who are themselves quite well-paid.

All this is beginning to change. In the last few months there has been a remarkable growth in militancy both on the salaries question and on the issue of more democracy in schools for both staff and pupils.

Whether enough steam has been developed to force the union into a head-on conflict with the government remains to be seen.


One encouraging sign is the decision of the Inner London Teachers’ Association to contact every association in the country calling for rejection of the pay offer and for a pre-conference meeting for delegates to organise opposition to the executive’s motion.

The ILTA is not noted as a particularly radical body and its action reflects the profound discontent among London teachers.

A mass demonstration outside the conference has been called by the Greater London Ad Hoc Salaries Campaign Committee, an unofficial grouping of mainly young teachers in London. A leaflet setting out the case for militant action has been printed.


The aim is to get it to every conference delegate. The conference starts at 9 a.m. Saturday morning at Central Hall. Westminster and maximum support is needed from 8 a.m. onwards for the demonstration and leafletting.

Whatever the outcome on Saturday, Left-wing teachers need to organise nationally for the struggles to come. The future Labour offers us is one of education cuts, overcrowded classes, poor pay and worsening conditions.

We need to transform the NUT into a democratic and militant organisation to defend the interests of teachers and children alike.

A broadly-based grouping around the unofficial paper Rank and File has made a start in this direction. The paper fights to democratise the union and the schools, for militant action on pay and conditions and for the need for freedom in education

The urgent need is to develop local groups in all main centres to work systematically towards these goals.

Last updated on 26 October 2020