Teachers to be balloted on one-day strike plan

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The Independent Online

Schools face the threat of a national strike next term after members of the biggest teachers' union voted in favour of action over the introduction of performance-related pay.

The decision to ballot members on a one-day strike was a win for the extreme left, who defied the executive of the 200,000-member National Union of Teachers at their annual conference in Harrogate. Voting figures were 105,138 to 82,114. Doug McAvoy, the union's general secretary, said there would be a ballot but that he would refuse to to campaign for a "yes" vote, because a one-day strike would not be effective.

To do so, he told conference, would be dishonest. "I have no intention of hiding from members the full consequences as I see them of the decisions of conference. I will not be a party to conning members." He went on:

"The strike amendment was carried by the smallest of majorities, not because of the arguments and the facts used in debate but because of the predetermined political posturing of some delegates."

The pay reforms offer an extra £2,000 to teachers who pass a "threshold test" by meeting new national standards. The union wants a £2,000 pay rise for every teacher. David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education, said that it would be the first timethat a union had gone on strike against a pay rise. "I know that the rank and file of the NUT will have more sense than to prevent themselves getting extra pay and promotion," he said.

The action would be the union's first national strike for 31 years. Conference voted for a similar strike last year but the executive failed to hold a ballot. Delegates also backed a work-to-rule which could mean teachers refusing to run after-school clubs or attend evening meetings.

John Lockwood, ofWarwickshire, said: "There isn't a teacher in the land who doesn't see the £2,000 as a bribe to break the conditions of service of our members. Our leaders are mesmerised by this Labour government. They think they are invincible. The Government is actually coming apart at the seams. In 10 days they will lose the capital city. The time could not be better."

Bob Sulatycki, of Kensington and Chelsea, said parents would support a strike. "They can see teacher vacancies are growing now are a result of government policies," he said "and they will grow again as a result of performance related pay."

Simon Horne, of Barnet, north London, said the union's survey of its members showed there was not enough support for a strike. "It would be political suicide against a strong and determined government," he said.

Agnes Bishop, of Braintree, Essex, said the union was united against performance-related pay. "But this government thought out its policy long before it came to power. A one-day national strike is not going to make it change its mind one little bit. It requires massive support not just from us but from our members, many of whom have never been on strike."