MEMBERS of the National Union of Teachers have until May 7 to vote on industrial action over performance-related pay, amid signs that Government concessions over timing have further split the unions.
On Wednesday the NUT began sending out ballot papers for a vote on a campaign of non-co-operation with teacher appraisal.
But the Association of Teachers and Lecturers has decided to hold fire after ministers agreed to postpone for a year the introduction of a new appraisal system - the first step towards linking pay to performance.
Both unions at their Easter conferences authorised their executives to hold ballots on industrial action over the Government's controversial Green Paper Meeting the Challenge of Change.
The NUT ballot paper asks: "Are you willing to take action short of strike action by refusing to participate in or co-operate with arrangements for your appraisal and that of other teachers?" Doug McAvoy, the NUT's general secretary, said: "This is the first stage of the Green Paper campaign, concentrating on appraisal. Our strategy will be to demonstrate the overwhelming opposition of all our members to the linking of appraisal to pay."
The deadline for voting is Friday, May 7. Any action would begin 10 days later.
If that wins no response from the Government, the union has up its sleeve plans for a second ballot for a one-day strike before the summer holiday - also authorised at its Easter conference.
But the ATL is holding fast. Its general secretary, Peter Smith, said: "We want to see what the detailed proposals on appraisal actually add up to.
"The fact the Government has decided to defer full implementation of the new arrangements for a year - which is exactly what we pressed it to do - is something we welcome. As a consequence we will not be holding a simultaneous ballot with the NUT."
The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers has been more positive about the Green Paper than its rival unions. Schools minister Estelle Morris chose the NASUWT conference to announce that appraisal would be postponed. The union has made no moves towards industrial action.
Estelle Morris, Opinion, 17 News 9 TESJapril 23 1999 g'It was at Oxford that I began drinking wine because I thought it would make me seem more elegant and sophisticated.' Wine expert OzClarke remembers his best teacher...and more besides. Friday magazine, page 2 'I think strikes may be inevitable next year, although it's the last thing we all want'