Teacher unions threaten national strike action ballot over pay

'One day strikes do not work. We’re fighting for our lives and our livelihoods'

Eleanor Busby
Education Correspondent
Saturday 31 March 2018 20:39
School strikes could be on the cards from the next academic year
School strikes could be on the cards from the next academic year

Two major teacher unions have stepped up plans to hold national strikes over a pay deal for staff.

Members of the the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT), meeting at its conference in Birmingham, voted in favour of considering rolling industrial action if the government fails to improve teachers’ pay.

Meanwhile in Brighton, members of the National Education Union (NEU) committed to balloting for strikes if teachers are not given a substantial pay rise.

The pressure to improve teachers’ pay comes after the government announced a 6.5 per cent pay rise for nurses, paramedics and porters over three years.

Teachers overwhelmingly backed a call for a ballot for strike action – if their pay demands are not met – at the annual conference of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) section of NEU.

The union wants an immediate 5 per cent pay rise fully funded to help solve the teacher recruitment and retention crisis.

Speaking today in Brighton, Jane Nellist, of the union’s executive, said it needed a “coherent and determined campaign that must involve industrial action”.

“The government is weak, but it is still dangerous. It is still refusing to halt the huge haemorrhaging of teachers and they have failed to meet their own targets on recruitment,” she said.

Kirstie Paton, a member from Greenwich, added that she was inspired by strike action by the Universities and College Union (UCU).

She said: “We’ve got to have a national strike for pay. One day strikes do not work. We’re fighting for our lives and our livelihoods.”

Schoolchildren across the country could face disruption if walkouts were to go ahead during the next academic year.

The plans will now be considered by a joint committee of the NEU – which brings together the NUT and Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) – in May.

If agreed, the union will consult members during the summer term to gauge support.

The ballot of the largest teaching union in the country could take place as early as September this year.

Members of the NASUWT union also voted unanimously in favour of considering industrial action if the government fails to ensure a better pay deal.

Introducing the motion at the NASUWT conference, Steve Thompson, from Leeds, said: “It’s clear to all why there is a recruitment and retention crisis in the profession.

“There is only one way to address this – the pay cap must be lifted.

“It’s clear that a substantial, above inflation rise in teachers’ pay is required and is long overdue.”

The NASUWT’s executive will meet at a later date and decide whether to ballot members on the use of strike action.

Teachers have not had a pay rise above 1 per cent in the last seven years due to the government’s austerity measures.

Kevin Courtney, general secretary of the NUT section of the NEU, said: The real value of teacher pay has been cut by some 15 per cent since 2010, reducing the competitiveness of teacher pay and adding to the intensifying crisis in teacher recruitment and retention.

“The impact of these attacks on teacher pay are clear – with government teacher recruitment targets missed year after year and teachers leaving the profession in record numbers, potential and serving teachers are turning away from the profession just when we need more teachers due to the increases in pupil numbers.”

A Department for Education statement said: “We have a record 15,500 more teachers in our classrooms than in 2010, and this generation of teachers is better qualified than ever before.

“The average teacher’s salary stands at £37,400 outside of London, rising to £41,900 in the capital.

“It is thanks to these teachers’ hard work and our reforms that 1.9 million more children are being taught in good or outstanding schools since 2010.”

The statement added: “We want to continue to attract and keep the best and brightest people in our schools.

“That’s why the education secretary recently announced a strategy to drive recruitment and boost retention of teachers, working with the unions and professional bodies, and pledged to strip away workload that doesn’t add value in the classroom.”

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