Pay up or face strikes

1st June 2007 at 01:00
Salary clampdown will drive out teachers and threaten educational plans, warn unions

TEACHERS ARE likely to be angered into strike action if the Government fails to deliver above-inflation pay rises, education unions warned this week.

Alan Johnson, England's Education Secretary, predicts that anything more than 2 per cent in teachers' pockets would threaten Britain's economic stability and schools' ability to hire more staff. He also said it could come at the cost of one-to-one tuition for half a million children.

Teachers' pay and conditions are the only education powers currently not devolved to Wales.

Chris Keates, general secretary of teachers' union the NASUWT, said Mr Johnson had a stark choice: either pay teachers adequately or see his reforms fail.

"We are committed to a campaign on pay," she said. "Depending on the members' response, this could well lead to industrial action."

Mr Johnson's warning is contained in his submission to the School Teachers'

Review Body on pay from 2008 to 2011. Education unions cite economists'

projections that inflation will remain above 3.5 per cent - far higher than the 2 per cent pay rise that Mr Johnson and would-be prime minister Gordon Brown are willing to concede.

Mr Johnson says salaries for core public-sector workers, including teachers, nurses, police and the armed forces, cost pound;50 billion a year, which has a significant impact on the economy.

The Government is willing to increase teacher numbers to pay for more personalised learning, but only if pay rises remain at no more than 2 per cent.

"A settlement of 0.5 per cent above this level would equate to an additional pound;250 million cost pressure by 2010-11 - equivalent to one-to-one support for around 500,000 pupils," he said.

An extra 0.5 per cent would equate to pound;100 a year, or pound;2 a week, before tax is deducted for a newly qualified teacher.

But Mr Johnson said: "It is essential that today's pay awards do not jeopardise tomorrow's jobs in the public sector and the general economy."

Teachers' pay, he said, has risen more than that of most other public sector workers under the Labour government.

But unions argued that clamping down on pay now will drive teachers out, making impossible the Government's programmes of personalised learning, extended schools and keeping teenagers in education or training till 18.

The NUT has called for a 10 per cent pay rise, and other teachers' unions have called for a "substantial above-inflation pay rise". It met with nurses and other public-sector unions to discuss co-ordinated action last week.

Steve Sinnott, the union's general secretary, said the "effective pay cut"

proposed by the Government would mean too few teachers to provide personal tuition. Dr Mary Bousted, of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said it would be the biggest threat to educational standards.

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