A leading member of the Socialist Teachers Alliance, Kevin Courtney is standing for the position of deputy general secretary of the NUT teachers’ union. Ballot papers go out this week. He spoke to Socialist Worker about his campaign
Why are you standing for deputy general secretary?
If elected, I want to be a deputy general secretary who is out and about visiting school groups, associations and picket lines.
I want to bring a campaigning approach to the leadership of the union.
The NUT has good policies but implementation of them has often been too weak.
We have to increase members’ involvement in the union.
In hustings meetings up and down the country I’ve been talking about the need to overcome the divisions between the teaching unions – and it’s a view that has been met with strong support.
We shouldn’t be afraid to act alone but we have to seek every opportunity to work together.
What are the major challenges facing the union?
Academies and trusts threaten to weaken teachers’ ability to defend themselves by breaking up the system of national pay and conditions.
Teachers’ lives continue to be blighted by overwork and lack of control.
And all political parties are targeting the public sector – with real prospects of pay freezes, attacks on pensions and redundancies.
I want to work towards building the broadest possible fightback.
You’ve been involved in the Anti-Academies Alliance (AAA) since its launch. How do you see the fight against privatisation of education continuing?
I think this is one of the key fights facing the entire teacher and support staff workforce.
I’ve been very pleased, as the trade union liaison officer of the AAA, in playing a role in getting the ATL, NASUWT, Unison and Unite unions to affiliate to the campaign alongside the NUT.
Last year saw some successful joint strike action by ATL, NASUWT and NUT members against academies and we need to build on that.
You are a leading figure on the left in the NUT. How do you see the left developing?
The left has played a vital role in developing the NUT’s campaigns and policies. It has to continue to reach out to involve people in the fight against the destruction of state education.
But the question of how you build the left depends on the wider campaigns the union is involved in. We’ll get more reps and more activists when the union leads successful and popular campaigns.
My first political activity was in the anti-apartheid movement and from that I moved on to union activity. We need to draw people who are offended by injustice into union activity.
I am very much in favour of the union remaining engaged with social movements.