The National Union of Teachers has committed to ballot its members for strike action next year if teachers aren’t granted a 5 per cent pay rise.

The union – now a section of the larger National Education Union following an amalgamation with the Association of Teachers and Lecturers last year – voted in favour of a motion that puts strike action on the table at its annual conference in Brighton today.

Under the terms of the motion, the union “commits to a ballot of all members for strike action, if our demands are not met, at the earliest opportunity in the 2018-19 academic year”.

The union will also now poll of members “as soon as is practicable” before the end of this academic year to “garner levels of support and identify areas of weakness to devote resources to” in the campaign for a strike.

However, any ballot will need the blessing of the ATL, which meets next month, and the National Education Union’s joint executive committee, which is next due to meet at the end of May.

Any ballot over strike action will also be subject to new tougher trade union rules for organisations representing public sector workers, which require ballots to achieve a turnout of 50 per cent and a vote in favour from at least 40 per cent of eligible members.

Kevin Courtney, the NUT’s general secretary and joint general secretary of the NEU, said he believed the union could meet the stringent requirements needed for strike action.

“It’s a really unfair threshold that we face in this, and to get over it, we’re going to have to really talk with members, and I think we can get over that threshold.”

Kirstie Paton, an NUT member from Greenwich, told the conference that she and others had been “inspired” by the recent action by the Universities and College Union, which went ahead despite the “incredibly demanding” threshold needed for strike ballots under the trade union act 2016.

“They beat the thresholds. The thresholds we were told would stop a national strike from ever happening again,” said Paton, who said a national strike lasting more than one day was needed.

“We’ve got to do it. We’ve got to have a national strike for pay. One day strikes do not work. We’re not into protesting anymore, we’re into fighting for our lives and our livelihoods.”

Courtney said today’s resolution “underlines the seriousness of the teacher recruitment and retention issue facing the government”.

“The union calls on the government to introduce a working hours limit for teachers to deal with the workload crisis and to begin a process of the restoration of teacher pay starting with a 5 per cent fully funded pay rise.

“The union will prepare to consult members widely on the action we need to take in order to win these demands and solve the teacher recruitment and retention crisis.”

Courney said teacher pay had been cut by 15 per cent in real terms since 2010, reducing the competitiveness of the profession and “adding to the intensifying crisis in teacher recruitment and retention”.

“Changes to the teacher pay structure have made the situation worse – pay progression rates for teachers are falling and many teachers are denied an annual pay increase.

“The impact of these attacks on teacher pay are clear – with government teacher recruitment targets missed year after year and teachers leaving the profession in record numbers, potential and serving teachers are turning away from the profession just when we need more teachers due to the increases in pupil numbers.”

The school teachers review body, which advises the government on teacher pay, is due to make its recommendations in the coming weeks, but it is unclear when the government will respond. Teaching unions have said that any pay rise must be matched with extra school funding to pay for it.

The NASUWT union, which is also meeting this weekend, today backed calls for a rolling programme of industrial action.



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4 Comments

  1. Mark Watson

    I’m sorry, but I can’t carry on reading this without getting progressively more angry at the sloppy journalism.
    The National Union of Teachers is not a union.
    This is simply a statement of fact. It was removed from the Certification Officer’s official list on 1 September 2017 when it amalgamated with the ATL to form the NEU and ceased to exist as a separate legal entity.
    The National Education Union has decided that its Members are notionally split into two categories – NUT and ATL. You may as well call them Oak and Willow for all the legal effect that has.
    Kevin Courtney is not the NUT’s general secretary. It has no general secretary because it’s not a union.
    This is not complicated. Your colleague Cath Murray did a whole piece on this four days before this article.

    • Mark Watson

      I’m not saying I agree with the levels set in the rules but I can seem some logic in the principle.
      Anyone who would be affected by the decision to stay within or leave the EU was entitled to vote (subject to age restrictions etc). If you wanted your voice to count in the decision you had that right. Similarly with general elections.
      A decision by public sector workers to strike affects far more than the individuals entitled to vote on that issue. If teachers strike it has a massive knock on effect – directly for both the children and the parents who have no say in the matter, and indirectly on the economy.
      I wouldn’t ever want to get into a position where workers are not able to strike if they feel it is the right thing to do, but given these knock-on consequences it doesn’t seem entirely unreasonable for there to be some form of ‘quorum’ needed for such a decision.
      In companies this concept of needing a quorum means that if for any reason only a very small proportion of the relevant people (shareholders, directors etc) turn up they can’t take decisions that affects the whole company.
      Like I said, I’m not sure about whether the 50% and 40% figures are appropriate, but I do tend to agree with the principle that there should be broad consensus within a union for a strike to be called.

      • Michael

        Mark you are absolutely right, well said. In addition strikes are carefully selected and very often members are reimbursed by the union. It is the poor who lose out, free school meals are not eaten and the poorer paid lose pay when they have to take time off work to look after children. Right to strike definitely, proper rules for it to take place, definitely!!