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Teacher strike on ice as Michael Gove and the unions fail to talk

The likelihood of a national strike by the NUT and NASUWT unions before their self-imposed deadline next month appears to be diminishing.

After staging two regional strikes during the autumn term, the unions announced that their planned national strike over pay, pensions and working conditions was being put on hold pending talks with Michael Gove.

If no resolution to the trade dispute was forthcoming, a strike would be held by 13 February, the unions said. But with less than a month to go, no strike or talks have materialised.

Mr Gove responded to the NUT and NASUWT by stressing that any talks should also involve the other unions, so as not to disadvantage those who had decided against industrial action. Controversially, he insisted that the self-proclaimed union alternative, Edapt, should also be present.

The NUT and NASUWT were less than impressed, insisting that private talks were required to resolve their dispute. Mr Gove, predictably, stood firm.

Currently, the impasse looks set to continue. Following talks between union leaders yesterday, TES understands that all of the classroom and headteacher unions confirmed they were happy to attend – but only Edapt was excluded.

"We don't know how many members they've got or who they're owned by. They're not a trade union," a source said.

In his most recent letter to the unions this week, TES understands that Mr Gove once more insisted that Edapt should attend the discussions.

This has come as a surprise to Edapt, which has consistently stressed that it has no ambitions to engage in pay negotiations. It is understood the organisation is somewhat mystified to have found itself at the centre of the row it has no direct involvement in.

But while no official talks between Mr Gove and the unions appear to be imminent, it also remains to be seen if the NUT and NASUWT’s promised joint strike will materialise.

Following an emergency meeting of the NUT executive yesterday, members have been instructed to remain tight-lipped until further negotiations with the NASUWT have taken place.

However, several sources in the union sector told TES that they believed the NASUWT – which has remained silent on the issue – was reluctant to hold another strike before 13 February, much to the frustration of many NUT members.

"Members are expecting us to honour our commitment to strike action," a source said.

The next NUT executive meeting is scheduled for 30 January – just two weeks before the unions' deadline for strike action.

But NUT deputy general secretary Kevin Courtney insisted that it is a case of business as usual.

“The NUT and NASUWT have previously declared that failure to make progress in discussions will lead to further strike action,” he said.

“The NUT national executive reaffirmed this position yesterday and meets again on 30 January to make further decisions. Strike action is not our first resort - but it remains very much our intention if we cannot secure progress.”

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