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NASUWT threatens strikes as Gove and Wilshaw compared to Kray twins

The NASUWT has left open the option of another joint national strike with the NUT this summer, as members condemned the government as the most destructive to state education in half a century.

Delegates at the union’s annual conference this morning voted unanimously to threaten to escalate its dispute with the Coalition to strikes at school, local, regional and national level, "as appropriate".

During the debate, education secretary Michael Gove and Ofsted chief Michael Wilshaw were even compared to the brutal 1960s gangsters the Kray twins.

Chris Keates, NASUWT general secretary, refused to give any timetable for possible action, but made it clear that if talks with the Department for Education over pay and conditions, pensions and jobs were not productive, there could be more strikes.

“We have no plans for naming days in any month,” she said. “That doesn’t mean to say there won’t be an escalation of action in either the summer term or the autumn term.”

She said the weekly talks had “got off to a positive start”. But, she warned, “We will very quickly be able to spot if this is just a delaying tactic in the run up to the general election.”

The NUT is this week expected to vote for another national strike in June, having gone on strike on its own last month.

But Ms Keates said that when her union had taken action, “the message we gave to the public is we are on strike because the government won’t talk to us”.

“I don’t think parents and the public would understand if we then stood up and said ‘right then, we are escalating the action’ even though we have been given what we asked for in terms of talks,” she said.

“Not only have we got a responsibility to our members, but I think parents and the public will expect us to be able to exhaust the opportunity.”

The union will continue with the industrial action it began in 2011 – which includes measures such as members refusing to submit lesson plans to school leaders and to respond to work emails outside work hours.  

But Brian Cookson, NASUWT treasurer, said: “When we find it is not enough, then escalated action will show our true mettle and our true intent.”

Derek Moore, a member of the union’s executive committee, described the Coalition as “the most pernicious in its dealings with the public sector and the education service I can recall over the last 50 years”.

Neil Jeffrey, a delegate from Herefordshire, added: “We are now faced with a double act, a team, working in tandem – Mr Gove and Mr Wilshaw, the Ronnie and Reggie [Kray] of state education."

Ms Keates would not reveal details of the exact conditions that would trigger a strike, but said that keeping the government in the dark made the NASUWT’s position “even stronger”.

“The pressure isn’t on us as a union, the pressure is on Michael Gove,” she added. “Because nobody trusts the secretary of state, so if the secretary of state breaks the faith of these talks then it won’t just be the anger of teachers, it will be the anger of parents and the public.”

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “Further strike action will only disrupt parents' lives, hold back children's education and damage the reputation of the profession.”

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