Teaching strikes loom after ballot

 

Two of the UK's biggest teaching unions were today on a collision course
with the Government after voting for further industrial action,
including strikes, over pensions, pay and job losses.

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) passed a resolution at its annual conference in Torquay seeking fresh walkouts as early as this summer amid concerns over the Government's changes to public sector pensions.

It came just hours after the NASUWT, which is holding its conference in Birmingham, agreed to escalate its industrial action campaign against attacks on pay, pensions, working conditions and job losses - raising the possibility of strikes in the autumn term.

The latest moves by the two unions means that schools across the country could now face walkouts from the summer onwards.

The NUT's motion, which was heard in private, called for the union to work with its local divisions with the "aim of organising a further one-day national strike before the end of June."

It also raised the possibility of targeted regional and local action in both the summer and autumn terms. Any action by the NUT could affect schools in England and Wales.

The motion instructed the executive to "seek to build a coalition of unions committed to further strike action in the summer term and beyond to defeat the Government's proposals".

Speaking after the debate, NUT general secretary Christine Blower said: "The overwhelming majority of teachers and their organisations have clearly rejected the Government's policy for the teachers' pension scheme.

"The NUT conference has now agreed a comprehensive strategy and position to make sure that we are able to take action in order to give life to that rejection of the pensions and in order to win something better for our members so that they don't have to work longer, pay more and get less."

Ms Blower said it was "important that the Government takes this seriously", adding that there were fears that the Government would announce will rise beyond 68 to 69 or 70.

She added that the "determination to continue this campaign is absolute."

Action over the summer term would coincide with the exams seasons, when tens of thousands of teenagers sit qualifications including GCSEs and A-levels.

Ms Blower yesterday insisted that it is not the union's intention to disrupt the exams period.

The NUT, along with a number of other trade unions, has been embroiled in a row with the Government over public sector pensions for more than a year.

It argues that the Government's proposals will leave teachers paying in more, working longer and receiving less when they retire.

Ministers insisted that changes are needed to ensure public sector pensions are sustainable for the future.

The union, which declined the Government's latest pensions offer, took part in a walkout over pensions on June 30 last year, as well as joining the TUC's national day of action on November 30.

NUT members in London also staged a one-day walkout last month.

This morning, the NASUWT passed a resolution arguing that continuing their industrial action campaign is "the best means of protecting and safeguarding the interests of teachers and state education until the next general election."

It warned that in the face of a "vicious and unjustified assault on teachers, it will be essential to intensify the industrial action campaign".

Proposing the NASUWT's resolution, union treasurer Brian Cookson said there had been an "unprecedented, vicious, prejudiced and totally unjustified attack on the public sector" in the last two years.

He said that education is on the front line of an attack on workers' rights, pay cuts, and increased pension costs.

"As teachers we are supreme professionals and we must be treated as such. As our general secretary has said, "teaching is not rocket science, it is more difficult than that!" We want to achieve the best for the children we teach. We care about the future. We believe in education as a right."

He added: "Colleagues, we must avoid at all costs a shopping list approach to industrial action. Industrial action must have a carefully planned focus, a strategic approach. During the next term our members will really see the effects of a protracted pay freeze, a rise in pension contributions, see their pay fall, look at the prospect of a pay freeze and draconian curbs on pay for three further years, the scrapping of national pay rates on top of the mounting assaults on our professionalism you witness every day.

"We not only have the capacity to respond, we can build on it daily throughout next term. We know we may be in it for the long haul but, colleagues, we will respond and we will win.

A Department for Education spokesman said the teachers' pensions deal is "as good as it gets".

"It guarantees teachers one of the best pensions available but keeps a lid on rising costs for the taxpayer," he said.

"We've been in serious talks for months with unions to address their concerns and reach a final settlement. Reforms to public sector pensions are essential - the status quo is not an option."

The spokesman added: "It is absurd to say our school reforms are a 'vicious assault' on the teaching profession. They are all about putting children first and raising standards."

PA

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