Call for summer strike as pay cap is extended
Teachers' annual pay rises will be capped at 1 per cent for three more years, Chancellor George Osborne announced in the Budget. The cap for public sector workers had been due to come to an end in 2015, but will now continue for an extra 12 months, Mr Osborne said.
The announcement came in for stinging criticism from the teaching unions, as it emerged that some NUT members are calling for a national strike, announced this week, to be brought forward to next term to increase the pressure on education secretary Michael Gove.
NUT general secretary Christine Blower said the extended pay cap would mean that "teachers now face an even longer period of ongoing real-terms pay cuts".
On Monday the NUT and the NASUWT unions unveiled plans for a joint programme of industrial action, starting with a regional strike on 27 June in the North West. This is to be followed by further regional strikes and a national strike in the autumn term. But with proposals to tie teachers' pay more closely to performance - a move strongly opposed by the unions - due to come into effect in September, some NUT members are calling for national action to start before the summer holidays.
At the NUT's annual conference in Liverpool next week, the Local Associations National Action Campaign group of NUT members is planning to submit a "strengthening amendment" to the union's plans, calling for a national strike next term.
"With the attack on teachers' pay that is coming, the action has to be firmer," NUT executive member Martin Powell-Davies said. "We think it would be eminently sensible, instead of a regional strike, to have a national strike alongside PCS (the civil service Public and Commercial Services union) and it may have a lot more impact."
While members of the NUT executive agreed in December to "build towards strike action in the spring term", the NASUWT leadership is understood to have been more cautious. In January, NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates accused Mr Gove of trying "to goad us into taking the strike action he so desperately wants".
And Deborah Lawson, general secretary of anti-strike union Voice, accused the NUT and NASUWT of "playing into Michael Gove's hands". "This is what he and his supporters in the press want: to be able to portray teachers as militants and 'the enemy'," she added.
A spokesman for the Department for Education said that strikes would "disrupt pupils' education, hugely inconvenience parents and damage the profession's reputation in the eyes of the public".