Schools to be hit by a second national strike

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TEACHERS are to stage a fresh national strike next month in a long-running row with the Government over its reforms to pay, pensions and conditions.

Members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) in England and Wales will walk out on March 26 after accusing Education Secretary Michael Gove of “persistent refusals” to address their complaints.

The union has held a series of strikes since first balloting its members almost three years ago, but more recently called off industrial action as talks were held.

The last national strike was a joint action between the NUT and the NASUWT. Leaders of the NASUWT will meet on February 14 to consider calling industrial action. The union yesterday wrote to Mr Gove asking for “discreet meetings” to be called to try to end the deadlocked row.

The NUT is pushing ahead with another strike, however, and a Yorkshire official has warned that a “calendar of industrial action” could be needed.

Its general secretary Christine Blower said: “Michael Gove’s persistent refusals to address our ongoing dispute over pay, pensions and conditions of service, is unnecessary and deeply damaging.

“As a result, thousands of good, experienced teachers are leaving or considering leaving the job and a teacher shortage crisis is looming with two-in-five teachers leaving the profession in their first five years.

“The NUT and NASUWT met with government officials in October - now over 17 weeks ago. Reassurances were given that Michael Gove would talk about a wide range of matters on implementation of pay and pensions and the direction of travel and implementation on conditions. Subsequently, the Education Secretary has put obstacle after obstacle in the way of talks, showing no serious attempt to resolve - or even to discuss - the matters in dispute. We on the other hand have made every effort. We cancelled the strike planned for November and postponed action in February.

“We have indicated we will meet with Mr Gove anywhere, any time to seek to resolve the disputes in the. Strike action is always a last resort for teachers and we deeply regret the fact that we have been put in a position whereby we have no alternative.”

Patrick Murphy, the NUT’s Leeds branch secretary said: “These national set piece strikes are a very effective way of protesting and of making our case but I think a more sustained campaign will be needed in order for the Secretary of State to realise that these issues will not go away.”

He warned that changes to pensions and the increasing workload would drive an increasing number of teachers out of the profession.

The NASUWT’s general secretary Chris Keates said: “The Secretary of State must understand that the teaching profession is on the verge of a crisis. The relentless attack on every aspect of teachers’ working lives is taking its toll.

“NASUWT members have been engaged in industrial action since November 2011. It was deeply disappointing to teachers that, having agreed in October 2013 to talks with the NASUWT and NUT, the Secretary of State did not take the opportunity to progress this, despite planned strike action for November 2013 being called off.”

A DfE spokesman said: “Parents will struggle to understand why the NUT is pressing ahead with strikes over the Government’s measures to let heads pay good teachers more. They called for talks to avoid industrial action, we agreed to their request, and those talks will begin shortly. Despite this constructive engagement with their concerns, the NUT is nevertheless taking strike action that will disrupt parents’ lives, hold back children’s education and damage the reputation of the profession.”