Thinking about downing tools? First, know your rights

4th April 2008 at 01:00
Q: Why are NUT members going on strike?

A: The NUT objects to the latest pay deal offered to teachers, which is a 2.45 per cent rise in 2008, and 2.3 per cent rises in 2009 and 2010. They say this is well below the retail price index of inflation, which is at 4.1 per cent, and therefore amounts to a pay cut. They want a pay rise of 4 per cent to help teachers pay for things such as the rising cost of housing, petrol and food. The Government's deal is more in line with the consumer price index of 2.5 per cent, which does not include essentials such as mortgage interest payments.

Q: Can I go on strike if I'm the only NUT member in my school?

A: Yes, and your headteacher will be advised not to stop you.

Q: Will going on strike affect my pay packet?

A: Yes. If you strike you will lose a day's pay, whether you are a full-time member of staff or a supply teacher.

Q: I'm an NUT member but don't want to strike. Do I have to?

A: No, and you can't be thrown out of the union over it. The NUT has already acknowledged that some teachers might choose to work in exceptional circumstances, for example, if they have arranged a school trip that day or feel they have to look after a pupil who can't be looked after at home.

Q: I'm a teacher, but not an NUT member. What should I do on April 24?

A: The NASUWT and Association of Teachers and Lecturers is encouraging its members to go to work. Unions such as Unison, which represent support staff, are not involved in this strike either.

However, by Trades Union Congress rules, no member of such unions should cover the work of striking NUT colleagues. Obviously, if your school closes, you can go home.

Q: I'm a head. What should I do?

A: If you're an NUT member, you can join the strike. Meanwhile, the National Association of Head Teachers and the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) are both offering advice to their members through emails and their websites.

Bob Carstairs, assistant general secretary of ASCL, said its members should remain neutral, make no attempt to break the strike, and start making careful plans about whether the school can remain open, based on health and safety considerations.

Q: Will the strike definitely happen?

A: Steve Sinnott, general secretary of the NUT, could still call off the strike if he felt the Government had agreed to its demands.

Q: Is the Government likely to give in?

A: No. It has been resolute on pay issues, as it has been trying to keep public sector pay rises below 2 per cent. Also, it already believes teachers have a good deal.

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