Teachers are warning of a fresh bout of strike action in schools over government plans to scrap national pay scales for the profession.
They are warning a move towards regional pay agreements could bring salary cuts for thousands of teachers in the poorest areas.
Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teacher and Lecturers - traditionally the most moderate teachers’ union, warned: “If you’re outside the South East and the hot spots, you’re going to get paid less.”
The plans, announced by Chancellor George Osborne in last week’s Budget, are already being considered by the profession’s pay review body.
Education Secretary Michael Gove has directed it to look at how best a a regional pay system - more in line with local market conditions - could be introduced.
“Note it has been told to consider how best to introduce it not whether it should be introduced,” said Dr Bousted.
“I do think this is going to open up the next industrial front for teachers.
The move towards lower pay for teachers in poorer areas - as it has been characterised - coincides with a call from new chief schools inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw for pay rises to be withheld from teachers if the fail to satisfy inspectors they are doing a good job.
"This Government’s message to teachers is calamitous,” said Dr Bousted.
As a result of its actions, teachers are warning of a rise in staff reporting stress and mental health problems.
“It is saying ‘we don’t care about your workload, we don’t care about your mental health, we’re going to cut and freeze your pay’.”
In addition to the scrapping of national pay rates, teachers - like other public servants - are to be limited to rises of just one per cent in the next two years.
“There is the possibility of teachers in the north-East the poorest region) having their pay frozen for years and years and years and this is at a time when applications for teacher training even in the recession have dropped,” Dr Bousted continued. “Teachers are leaving the profession at a higher rate than ever.
“This is remarkably callous behaviour for the health of our education system and the physical and mental welfare of teachers.
“If this ends in a complete break up of national conditions, then - yes - I do think that would lead to a call for industrial action subject, of course, to our executive and the members’ agreements.
Teachers’ unions will be debating the issue at their Easter conferences – which start next Monday.
Leaders of the National Union of Teachers are planning to bring forward an emergency motion which is almost certain to call for industrial action over the pay freeze and the threat to the national agreement.
Meanwhile, the ATL indicated it had abandoned its opposition to the Government’s pension plans because it could see a bigger fight ahead over pay. It has been criticised by other teachers’ unions who are still refusing to agree changes to pensions which will see teachers retiring later and making bigger contributions to the scheme. NUT members in London are planning a one-day strike on Wednesday over pensions.
The teachers’ pay review body will report on regional pay by September with Mr Gove giving his final verdict on the plans later in the autumn.