Unions consider 'escalation' of industrial action

Strikes on the cards as anger mounts over regional pay

Stephen Exley & Kerra Maddern

A fresh wave of strikes could be on the way, after fierce debates at the annual conferences of the biggest two teaching unions during the Easter weekend. But while anger at the government over pension reforms was palpable at the NASUWT and NUT gatherings, few details of exactly what industrial action will ensue have been finalised.

In a meeting that took place behind closed doors at the NUT conference in Torquay, members backed a "further programme of targeted local or regional strikes in the summer term".

While some members had called for a timetable of action, the details have yet to be decided. "We aim to organise a further one-day national strike before the end of June," said NUT general secretary Christine Blower. "It's possible we would have local or regional strikes before the end of term, depending on discussions with the NUT's divisions and associations."

The way ahead for the NASUWT is also uncertain. While dele-gates in Birmingham unanimously agreed to an "escalation" of its campaign of industrial action, it is not yet clear what this will involve. The union's ongoing "work to rule" action will continue and could be stepped up, but general secretary Chris Keates said that no decision has yet been made by the union's executive.

The NASUWT campaign could also include a further one-day national strike, as the union already has a mandate for action over teachers' pay and conditions, pensions, excessive workload and job losses.

Ms Keates has not ruled out joint action with the NUT, but said that the executive was "minded" to wait until the autumn term. "If the government commits to engaging constructively with the NASUWT there should be no need to move to further industrial action, but we have reached a point where we feel we have no choice but to take steps to defend teacher professionalism," she added.

NUT members also passed a motion saying they would be prepared to strike if the government, as expected, introduces regional pay for teachers. Delegates voted to "oppose any efforts" to remove or undermine national pay and conditions and to "take all appropriate action", including a ballot for national strike action.

"It will lead to less transparency, undermine equal pay and have consequences for equality," said executive member Helen Andrews. "National pay and conditions are no accident of history. They were agreed to overcome and remedy deficiencies in earlier local and regional pay. We have to be ready to take action, including strike action."

The School Teachers' Review Body is expected to publish a report in July on how regional pay might be implemented.

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Stephen Exley & Kerra Maddern

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