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Thousands of schools to be hit by biggest strike in three years

Thousands of schools will remain closed tomorrow as teachers and support staff prepare for the biggest strike in the education sector for almost three years.

The NUT is holding a national strike in its on-going dispute with the government over pay, pensions and working conditions.

While the NUT will be the only classroom union taking action, the Unison, GMB and Unite unions representing school support staff will also be on strike as part of wider disputes among their members over a 1 per cent pay offer from the Local Government Association.

Unison claims that, after three consecutive years of pay freezes followed by below-inflation rises in 2013 and 2014, support staff have effectively seen their pay reduced by almost 20 per cent in real terms since the government came to power.

With the four unions collectively representing around 700,000 members working in schools, Jon Richards, Unison’s head of education and children’s services, told TES that Thursday’s strike would be the largest scale industrial action to take place in schools since the public sector pension strike of November 2011, and would affect the “vast majority” of schools.

“We expect the action will have a huge impact,” he said. “We have had a very good response from members, which shows how strongly they feel about this issue, and we’re hoping the action persuades the employers to think again and come back to the negotiating table.”

The NUT has stressed that the date has been chosen to cause “minimum disruption” to exams and that it is a “last resort” for teachers. At the union’s annual conference, delegates voted against a proposal for at least four days of strikes in the autumn term.

However, executive member Martin Powell-Davies, who lost out in his leadership battle with Christine Blower last month, has continued to call for the campaign of industrial action to “continue and escalate” after the summer break. “We have no option but to do what it takes to stop Gove,” he said. 

The Local Government Association has criticised the support staff unions’ “disappointing” decision to strike and insisted its offer – which would see the lowest paid staff receive an increase of more than 4 per cent, with the rest receiving a 1 per cent increase – was the “fairest possible deal for our employees given the limits of what we can afford”

Education secretary Michael Gove has criticised the strike plans, and said they were not widely supported. "The overwhelming majority [of teachers] will not be going on strike," he said at the weekend.

 

Related stories:

NUT members to strike next month - June 2014

NUT re-elects Christine Blower as its general secretary - June 2014

Teachers and support staff could strike together in July - May 2014

Teacher strike still on the cards for NUT in June, but autumn action voted down - April 2014

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