Strike calls fill conference halls

22nd April 2011 at 01:00
Demands for ballots dominate NUT and NASUWT gatherings, with pension fury to the fore

Mounting calls for strikes over the erosion of teachers' pensions, national pay and conditions and shrinking education budgets will dominate highly charged debate at the two leading teacher union conferences this weekend.

The agendas of both the NUT and the NASUWT's annual gatherings this year call for ballots for action on financial issues, with pensions due to take centre stage.

Already this week, the annual conference of the usually moderate ATL union has passed an emergency motion calling for industrial action over pension changes. Its executive gave the green light to a ballot for action which could take place in the summer term. General secretary Mary Bousted has said any action will not disrupt scheduled exams.

An NUT motion due to be debated in Harrogate on Sunday said plans to make public sector workers pay more and work longer for their pensions were driven by the Government's desire to make them "pay the price of an economic crisis caused by the greed of others who are allowed to escape its consequences completely".

Under plans backed by chancellor George Osborne, teachers' pension contributions will increase by around 50 per cent over the next four years.

Although speakers are likely to focus on anti-Government rhetoric, general secretary Christine Blower has said she wants to take a "measured approach" "so that any action we do take is supported by members".

The NUT will also debate a motion on whether to hold ballots for action over the two-year public sector pay freeze, calling the move "discriminatory, unfair and demotivating". Spending cuts, which are already leading to job losses in local authorities and schools, will also attract strong opposition.

Meanwhile, at the NASUWT conference in Glasgow, traditionally dominated by issues such as pupil behaviour, speakers will say that joint union action over pensions is "inevitable".

"Members will also call for a joint union campaign to protect national pay and conditions "using all appropriate means".

Delegates will also debate concern over the "disproportionate" rise in leadership salaries as a result of increasing school autonomy.

"Too many school leaders have secured inflated pay and benefits packages, including double payments for doing other work outside their schools," a motion put forward by the union's executive claims.

NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said there would be a "mood of anger" at this year's conference.

"We are now defending essential things like pay and pensions. There is a feeling of injustice that the Coalition has moved with no evidence base away from the things that delivered higher educational standards in the last decade."

ATL: `PRAGMATISM' IS SHOWN THE DOOR

ATL members who called for a more "pragmatic and positive attitude" to academies have been defeated at the union's annual conference.

Phil Whalley, branch secretary for Wiltshire, called for a less confrontational stance in order to win better deals for members.

But Hank Roberts, junior vice president of ATL, won backing for an amendment that contradicted Mr Whalley and said that unions should do everything possible to oppose academy conversions.

Original headline: Strike calls fill conference halls as delegates turn on Coalition

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