Michael Gove has been accused of “prevarication” in his communications with the NUT and NASUWT by unions leaders.
The unions have also claimed the education secretary is “playing games” rather than working to prevent more teachers’ strikes.
In the latest in an increasingly terse series of missives being swapped between the unions’ general secretaries - Christine Blower and Chris Keates - and Mr Gove, the unions imply that the minister’s recent letters have served to increase the likelihood of them following through with their threat of a national strike before 13 February.
“You should be clear that meetings set up specifically with the NASUWT and the NUT to discuss the substance of our disputes are more likely to lead to the resolution of our trade disputes,” Ms Blower and Ms Keates’ letter said.
“We regret your prevarication. Rather than seeking to address the serious concerns exemplified by our disputes, you are playing games which are not in the interests of children and young people or the teaching profession.”
In a proliferation of written exchanges since the unions announced last month they had suspended a national walk-out planned for November, both parties have failed to come to an agreement over the nature of talks planned to take place between them.
While the two unions claimed their series of regional strikes had helped secure talks with Mr Gove, he then responded by insisting that the other unions – the NAHT, ASCL, ATL, Voice and, most controversially of all, self-proclaimed “union alternative” Edapt – should also be allowed to attend. The NUT and NASUWT have opposed this, calling for separate talks purely on the basis of resolving their trade dispute.
Mr Gove, however, has made clear that he expects that all of the unions should attend any meetings he organises with the NUT and NASUWT.
In the minister’s most recent letter, he claimed that the unions’ replies had left him “none the wiser as to whether you are willing to attend the actual programme of talks I have proposed” with the other unions.
The bad tempered exchange also raises the surreal prospect of the talks demanded by the NUT and NASUWT taking place with everyone sitting round the table apart from them.
If nothing else, the recent correspondence suggests that the “genuine dialogue” with Mr Gove that Ms Keates spoke of last month has failed to materialise.