The annual conference of the NUT has voted against committing itself to two further strikes in the autumn term, but national action in June is still on the cards.
A priority motion was put to the conference by the union’s national executive, calling for a national strike over pay, pensions and working conditions in the week beginning Monday 23 June, should government negotiations fail to lead to a resolution.
However, an alternative proposal was put forward by the union’s left-wing Local Associations National Action Campaign group for two strikes, each of at least two days, in the autumn term. It also set out four key demands: an end to performance-related pay, a pension age of 60 for teachers, a £2,000 pay rise for all teachers and a “significant” reduction in working hours.
After a heated debate, the motion was voted against by delegates. Despite this, further strikes in the autumn could still be possible, depending on the progress in talks between the unions and the government.
A final decision on whether to approve provisional plans for the June strike will take place later in the conference, but several speakers voiced their support for plans to increase the pressure on the government.
Proposing the motion, Jerry Glazier of the NUT's executive said: “We must put maximum possible pressure on Gove and the coalition government to radically change their damaging policies towards education, their damaging policies towards teachers and their damaging policies towards children.”
Ian Murch, also on the union's executive, launched a stinging attack on the education secretary, who he compared to a “demented Dalek on speed who wants to exterminate anything good in education that's come along since the 1950s”.
East London member Kiri Tunks said the stronger proposal for strikes in the autumn was “too prescriptive” and “unrealistic”, while executive member Alex Kenny said it was important to “reach out to those members who weren't confident enough to strike on 26 March”.
However, Rotherham teacher Gemma Short said the NUT needed to “declare to the government that we intend to defeat them” through strike action, adding: “If we're serious, we need to have a serious industrial dispute”.
Under the proposals still on the table, a one-day strike would be most likely, but longer action would also be possible under the wording of the motion, which also reveals that the date could move if other unions decide to come on board.
Earlier in the day, president Max Hyde told the conference that, while teachers “do not take strike action lightly... we cannot stand by when teachers’ pay is eroded, our pensions attacked and our workload is unsustainable”.
“The NUT is not afraid to lead the fight for decent pay, pensions and working conditions for teachers,” she added.
The NASUWT, which is also holding its annual conference this weekend, will debate the next phase of its industrial strategy tomorrow morning.