Teachers' union set for strike ballot over pay

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The first national strike by teachers for more than two decades is looming as a result of Gordon Brown's determination to limit public sector pay rises.

Ministers are poised to announce a pay rise of 2 per cent this month in line with the clampdown on public sector pay. But with the cost of living rising by about 4 per cent a year, the unions argue that the ceiling is unfair.

Britain's biggest teachers' union, the National Union of Teachers, has pledged to ballot its members on strike action if the award is below the level of inflation. Teachers' reaction to the award, the first pay deal in the public services in 2008, will be seen as a barometer for the future of the Government's public sector pay policy.

The Prime Minister emphasised his determination yesterday to hold firm by rejecting an above-inflation pay rise for MPs, despite reports that their pay review board was recommending a 2.8 per cent increase.

He insisted the rise should be limited to 1.9 per cent, in line with the budgeted increase for the police. Speaking on BBC 1's Andrew Marr Show, he promised more generous settlements for police, nurses, teachers and soldiers in future. "It is important in this year we break the back of inflation," he said. "In future, we will do better by the police, we can do better by nurses and teachers, we will do better by the Army."