Summer strikes on agenda for teaching unions

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SCHOOLS could face more strikes this summer as the country’s two biggest teaching unions consider escalating industrial action over pensions and pay.

The issue is set to be discussed by both the National Union of Teachers and the NASUWT during their annual conferences which take place this weekend.

A priority motion on public sector pensions, expected to be discussed at the NUT conference in Torquay today, calls for joint walkouts this summer and beyond to “defeat the Government’s proposals”.

It says that the NUT should attempt to build a “coalition of unions” committed to more strikes.

The summer term is the main exam period for schools across the UK, although the NUT insisted it was not the union’s intention to disrupt it.

NUT general secretary Christine Blower said: “We will obviously, when we discuss with other unions, discuss what timing makes sense and which regions make sense, but we would not be setting out, deliberately, to undermine the exams season.”

The NUT took part in a walkout over pensions on June 30 last year, which was after the exams period, as well as joining the TUC’s national day of action on November 30. The union argues that the Government’s reforms will leave teachers paying in more, working longer and receiving less when they retire.

Ministers insist that changes to public sector pensions are needed to ensure they are sustainable for the future. The NASUWT’s general secretary Chris Keates said that “escalating” industrial action would inevitably be high on the agenda of its conference in Birmingham.

She said that the “depth of anger and frustration” felt by its members over teachers’ pay, pensions and performance measurement reforms was clear.

She said: “In September, teachers will be in the second year of the pay freeze and will have had six months of increased pension contributions, reducing the salary of a new teacher by over £3,000 and an experienced teacher by over £5,500.

“New punitive performance management and capability procedures will also be imposed.

“The continuation of the obsessive pursuit of academisation just adds to the turmoil and completes the conditions for the perfect storm in the autumn term.

“In the light of this, it is inevitable that consideration of the escalation of our current industrial action will be high on the agenda.

“What other response can there be to a coalition which is not prepared to engage with the profession and arrogantly presses ahead with ideological policies based more on an irrational contempt for public services and public service workers than doing the best for children and young people.”

The NUT’s priority motion instructs the executive to discuss with other unions about “all possible forms of joint strike and non-strike action, including national, regional and selective strike action.”

Deputy general secretary Kevin Courtney said: “It’s absolutely clear that teachers don’t accept the changes that the Government is making, and they’re only just beginning to see them, so that next month will be the first tranche of the contribution increase. So for the first time since the 1930s, we think, teachers will see a reduction, a cash reduction, in their take home pay, because the contributions go up.”

The NUT has also published a poll today warning that many teachers are feeling demoralised and overworked, with concerns that they are facing constant criticism and unrealistic expectations.

More than two-in-five – 42 per cent – of teachers say that their morale is currently low, or very low.

The survey of 850 teachers found almost six in 10 said their morale has declined in the last two years while about a quarter said that they currently have high morale.