NUT demands 10% pay hike plus cash bonus

20th February 2009 at 00:00
In spite of plummeting inflation, union leader warns Government not to use economic downturn as an excuse for a low salary offer

The nut is calling for a pay rise of at least 10 per cent plus a bonus of almost pound;1,400 for the average teacher, despite the worsening economic conditions.

Christine Blower, the union's acting general secretary, has warned the Government not to use the recession as an "excuse" to offer a low pay package.

Teachers should receive the 10 per cent increase or pound;3,000, whichever is greater, plus the bonus from September, the union has argued in evidence to School Teachers Review Body, the official pay body.

Using the economic gloom as a justification for keeping pay rises down has been unanimously rejected by all teaching unions. They are all lobbying for an increase of more than 2.3 per cent this year.

Their calls come as the retail price index (RPI) fell to 0.1 per cent this week, its lowest point since 1960.

Independent forecasters expect RPI, the most common measure of inflation used in pay talks, to be minus 1.9 per cent in the last three months of this year, according to the Treasury.

Thousands of public sector jobs are also expected to go this year, with widespread redundancies proposed in local councils. Other workers are facing the prospect of pay freezes.

The review body, which recommends to the Government what teachers should get paid, first suggested a rise of 2.3 per cent in its report last year. It is now re-examining that figure.

In evidence submitted to the pay body last week, the NUT said that teachers had suffered a 6 per cent pay cut in real terms since 2005.

"Neither the STRB nor the Government should be tempted to use the economic downturn as an excuse to consider cutting the 2009 teachers' pay increase below the 2.3 per cent they previously promised," said Ms Blower.

"The pay increase should in fact be much higher. Successive below inflation pay awards from 2005 onwards have left teaching unattractive to graduates, who can earn more with less stress in other fields."

Average teacher pay is pound;34,000, according to the Government. If inflation is minus 1.9 per cent in September, the NUT wants a one-off payment of almost pound;1,400 to make up for below-inflation deals in recent years.

The other teaching unions, which made a joint submission to the pay body, did not call for a specific rise.

But Martin Ward, deputy general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said an increase "modestly above" 2.3 per cent would be appropriate.

"This is not a year to seek a large, real-terms rise," he said.

"It will not play well with the public when many other people in different walks of life are losing their jobs and the public finances are under severe pressure."

Figures released this week show that applications to teacher training courses starting in September are up by 16 per cent for secondary and 7 per cent for primary.

But the unions said that pay must be increased to attract high quality staff and to avoid a "boom and bust" in teacher numbers. They also pointed to a growing gulf between the pay of teachers compared to that of other graduates.

A spokesperson for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said that teachers' pay had increased by an average of 19 per cent in real terms since 1997.

In dispute

The NUT staged the first national strike over pay for 21 years last April. The walkout, in protest over a 2.45 per cent pay rise that was introduced last September, closed or partially shut 9,500 schools.

A ballot held for a second strike was approved by members in November.

But the union decided against action because of a low turnout in the vote and the deteriorating economy.

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