Strike threat over pay rise

1st February 2008 at 00:00
The first national teachers strike for 20 years could take place on April 24.

Members of the biggest teaching union in England - the National Union of Teachers - have been encouraged to walk out for a day of industrial action over their latest pay award, branded "an effective pay cut". Teachers already have the support of some MPs, who have signed a parliamentary early day motion calling for an above-inflation pay rise for the profession. The ballot will take place at the end of this month.

The latest pay award means teachers' pay will rise 2.45 per cent this year and 2.3 per cent each year over the next two years. It was a better-than-expected pay settlement after other pubic-sector workers, including police and nurses, fared worse.

But the NUT claims the pay award does not match increases in the cost of living, which has risen by 4 per cent over the past year.

Steve Sinnott, general secretary, said the profession could not afford a return to teacher shortages and morale-sapping pay levels.

"I'll be recommending that members vote 'yes', because it is unacceptable for teachers and their families to suffer cuts in their standard of living," he said.

"To bring the best young graduates into the profession, salaries need to be competitive with those for graduates in the private sector. Our children deserve the best."

The Department for Children, Schools and Families in England argued strongly for a below-inflation pay rise of 2 per cent, but ministers were forced to accept the School Teacher Review Body's higher recommendation.

The body strongly criticised England's education minister Ed Balls and his officials, as well as the Assembly government, for failing to provide any evidence to back its claims that the economy could afford only 2 per cent for teachers.

In its report, the STRB said: "Transparency requires more than Government assertions on affordability."

The threat of teachers going out on strike will alarm the Westminster Government, already embarrassed by a police demonstration march. More than 20,000 police and their supporters paraded through central London last week to protest at a pay rise of only 1.9 per cent.

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