Teachers to press on with strikes as Gove defiant

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Schools are set to be hit by widespread walkouts after teachers vowed to press ahead with plans to strike over pay and pensions – the day after Michael Gove told them he would not back down.

At the start of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) annual conference in Liverpool yesterday, general secretary Christine Blower retaliated by warning the Education Secretary that the union was not prepared to row back from its position.

Her comments came after Mr Gove wrote to the NUT and the NASUWT to say he was willing to meet the unions to discuss their dispute but also insisting that the “direction of travel” on both of their key issues is “fixed”.

The stalemate puts the NUT on a collision course with the Government, with schools across the country set to be affected by walkouts over the next few months.

Ms Blower said: “We are not rowing back from our position. We have put forward these reasonable demands and we want 
to talk to him about them, not 
just have him send us a letter immediately before our conference.

“Negotiation is about sitting across the table having an 
exchange and listening to people.”

She added: “What he’s saying is pay and pensions are done and dusted, and there’s no reason to talk about it. That’s not our view.”

The NUT, along with the NASUWT, announced last week that they were planning a rolling programme of regional strikes, beginning in areas of the North West on June 27, amid a deepening row over pay, pensions and workload.

More are set to follow in the autumn term, with the stage set for a national walkout before Christmas.

The unions put a list of demands to Mr Gove, calling on him to suspend the introduction of performance-related pay, due to be brought in later this year, and to publish an evaluation of the Teachers’ Pension Scheme.

They also wanted him to “commit to genuine engagement” by setting up a series of meetings to discuss the dispute.

In his letter to the unions, Mr Gove said he would be “very happy” to meet them, but he warned: “While I am happy to discuss any issue you have, I shall stress in advance that on changes to teachers’ pension and pay arrangements, the direction of travel is now fixed.

“In both cases, there has been full consultation with trade unions including the NASUWT and the NUT.”

In her response to the letter, NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said: “This is a serious situation which requires a more measured response than this display of arrogance and belligerence from the Secretary of State.

“As far as we are concerned we remain committed to engaging in genuine discussions and our original demands still remain on the table.”

Delegates at the NUT’s annual conference are expected to debate a priority motion today confirming the union’s plan for industrial action with the NASUWT.