Michael Gove says he is 'very happy' to meet teaching unions


Michael Gove today agreed to meet two teaching unions planning to strike over pay and pensions, but warned the Government will not row back on its plans.

In a letter to the National Union of Teachers and the NASUWT teaching union, the Education Secretary said the direction of travel on both issues is now fixed.

The unions, which together represent the vast majority of teachers in England and Wales, announced last week that they are planning a national walkout this autumn, amid a deepening row over pay, pensions and workload.

They put a list of demands to Mr Gove, calling on him to suspend the introduction of performance-related pay, due to be brought in later this year, and to publish an evaluation of the Teachers' Pension Scheme.

They also wanted him to "commit to genuine engagement" by setting up a series of meetings to discuss the dispute.

In a letter to NUT general secretary Christine Blower and NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates today, Mr Gove said he would be "very happy" to meet them.

But he warned: "While I am happy to discuss any issue you have, I shall stress in advance that on changes to teachers' pension and pay arrangements, the direction of travel is now fixed.

"In both cases, there has been full consultation with trade unions including the NASUWT and the NUT."

Mr Gove said in his letter that changes to teachers' pensions are being made as part of wider reforms to public sector pensions, while pay reforms have been recommended by the School Teachers' Review Body (STRB).

He added that he believed that the proposed changes to pay, which will see teachers' salaries linked to performance in the classroom, are a "wholly good thing".

The letter concludes: "While the reforms we need to make to both pay and pensions have been decided, following extensive evidence gathering and consultation, we want to continue to work with you and other parties on implementing the reforms.

"As part of this process, I look forward to meeting with you to discuss how we can end your dispute."

Mr Gove's response comes as both the NUT and NASUWT prepare to meet for their annual conferences, which are expected to discuss issues such as pay and pensions.

In a joint announcement last week, the unions said they were planning a rolling programme of regional strikes, beginning in areas of the North West on June 27.

More are set to follow in the autumn term, with the stage set for a national strike before Christmas.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said at the time of the announcement that they were "very disappointed" the unions had decided to strike.

Both unions have already been taking part in industrial action, short of stoppages, but NUT general secretary Christine Blower insisted last week that they had had no engagement by Mr Gove over the dispute.

She said: "We have decided we must make an announcement that we will move to strike action in a bid to get the Secretary of State to listen seriously, and to seek to achieve a resolution in this dispute."