`We're very serious,' union leader insists

5th July 2013 at 01:00
Seeking re-election, she foresees further strike action in England

The leader of one of the UK's largest teaching unions is seeking re-election - and has warned that her organisation could escalate its campaign of strikes.

Christine Blower's term as general secretary of the NUT comes to an end in 2014, and some members had expected that she would stand aside. But Ms Blower, who became acting general secretary in 2008 before being elected, unopposed, the following year, confirmed to TES that she is "in the process of seeking nomination".

Last week, the NUT and NASUWT unions held a one-day regional strike over changes to teachers' pay, working conditions and pensions in the North West of England. The unions targeted 2,765 schools, with tens of thousands of teachers going on strike. Further regional strikes are expected in September and October, building up to a national strike in November.

The bitter dispute between the unions and England's education secretary Michael Gove has intensified in recent weeks, after the Department for Education called for "overly prescriptive" restrictions on teachers' working hours and the tasks they can be asked to carry out to be scrapped.

Ms Blower, who is also president of the European Trade Union Committee for Education, warned that if Mr Gove -presses ahead with the plans, she would "anticipate considerably more action".

"Having embarked on this [campaign], we're very serious," she said. "The NUT and NASUWT are not out of kilter with what our members think; what Michael Gove is saying is completely unacceptable.

"This amounts to driving a coach and horses through the arrangements for teachers. It's hard to know how teachers stand to gain from doing more photocopying and how that sort of thing contributes to making sure teachers are focused on teaching and learning."

The NUT leadership election is scheduled to take place in June 2014, with the next term of office running until 2019.

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