Teachers threaten public sector pay cuts strike

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The Independent Online

Teachers today threatened strike action over public sector spending cuts, saying a "decent society" is built on protecting the young, the old and the poor.

A resolution passed by the National Union of Teachers (NUT) at its annual conference in Liverpool called for a joint campaign with the TUC and public sector unions, including strikes if necessary, to oppose cuts to services, threats to pensions and pay freezes.

Jerry Glazier, of the NUT's executive told the conference: "In this time of recession, the need to protect education funding and the public services should be obvious to all political parties.

"The whole fabric of a decent society is built on protecting the young, the old, the vulnerable and those in poverty."

The resolution calls on the union to "reject plans outlined by all major parties for cuts in vital services which will impact on the children we teach".

Coming just a day before the general election is widely expected to be announced, this will be seen as one of the first shots in what is likely to be a huge battle between whichever party wins power and the unions over public sector pay, jobs and cuts in services.

The NUT has already passed a resolution this weekend threatening industrial action over workload, demanding a 35-hour week.

And pensions were high on the agenda at the NASUWT teaching union's annual conference in Birmingham on Saturday, where delegates backed a resolution to take industrial action over any attempt to change public sector pensions.

Debating the resolution this afternoon, Mr Glazier said: "The motion rightly includes the use of strike action where needed to oppose service cuts, pay freezes and threats to pensions."

NUT treasurer Ian Murch told delegates: "I am ashamed to live in a country where all three of our main political parties line up to say that we cannot afford our already under-funded public services.

"I am ashamed to live in a country where, during 30 years of unprecedented economic growth, the gap between the incomes and the life chances of the richest and the poorest has already widened obscenely.

"I am ashamed to live in a country where the marketisation and privatisation of education increasingly segregates and disadvantages the poor.

"Neither I nor any of us can afford the shame of standing by while any government after the general election cuts the services that the rich do not use at all and the poorest depend most heavily upon.

"Our country cannot afford politicians to put the demands of bankers ahead of the needs of ordinary people for schools, for hospitals, for university places, for social services, for welfare benefits."

Today's resolution comes soon after seven days of strikes by British Airways cabin crew in a dispute over jobs and cost-cutting, and three days of strikes by civil servants in a row over redundancy pay, which will be followed by more action in the coming weeks.

There has also been a threat of strikes on the railways, which was dramatically called off last week when Network Rail was granted an injunction suspending a four-day walkout after successfully arguing that the Rail Maritime and Transport's (RMT) strike ballot was flawed.

The NUT last took strike action in April 2008 in a row over pay. It was joined by members of the University and College Union (UCU) and the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS).

Schools Secretary Ed Balls has asked schools to save around £1 billion although he has promised to protect frontline services.

And the Conservatives have said they will only protect spending for the NHS and international development.

Mr Balls described the forthcoming general election as a choice between a party which would continue to increase the education budget and one which would cut it.

Addressing the NASUWT conference today, he said: "We've been clear that it's going to be tougher for all public services but the Chancellor has confirmed that we will have a rise in funding in real terms for 75 per cent of my budget.

"If people are saying to you there are going to be cuts in school budgets, there won't be cuts in school budgets under a Labour government, that's a promise we are making...

"If people are saying 'Prepare for cuts', what they're saying is prepare for a Conservative government because we won't be cutting the schools budgets if we win the election."

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