Delegates at the annual conference of the National Union of Teachers have voted to ballot members for a national campaign of strike action over teacher pay it talks with the government fail to make progress.
The union is asking for an end to public sector pay limits and the restoration of all real-terms pay losses suffered by teachers since 2010, and will ballot its members for industrial action if no progress is made in talks with the government over those proposals.
The NUT will also campaign in favour of strike action in order to get the “necessary support” of its membership, and will seek the involvement of other teaching unions.
However, any ballot over strike action will 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.
Teachers want to see pay restored in real terms to 2010 levels “over as short a period as possible”.
Rises in teacher pay scales have been capped at 1 per cent for many years, although the government argues that rules on performance-related pay give schools the flexibility to offer larger rises to some teachers.
However, delegates claim “increasing evidence” that performance-related pay is being used by some employers to deny pay rises to some staff and to discriminate against black and women teachers.
The NUT says teachers have suffered a real-terms decline in the value of their take-home pay of “approaching 20 per cent” since 2010″, and warns that some schools and academy trusts are seeking to “ration” pay rises in response to shrinking budgets.
Several unions have warned that caps on pay rises for teachers is contributing to a crisis in recruitment and retention, and the NUT points out that the government’s own School Teachers Review Body has warned that an increase of significantly more than 1 per cent is needed to ensure adequate supply of teachers.
Today’s motion at the NUT conference describes a “point of crisis” in teachers’ pay, accusing the government of refusing to “recognise the clear evidence that inadequate pay levels are driving good teachers out of the profession”.
The union has also voted to target schools, academy trusts and local authorities which produce “unreasonable or unfair” pay policies, naming and shaming them where appropriate and backing strikes in individual schools.
Kevin Courtney, the NUT’s general secretary, said: “At a time of a crisis in teacher supply and a buoyant graduate recruitment market, the government needs to do much more to make teaching an attractive profession.
“The NUT has repeatedly warned that, if the government continues its strategy of below- inflation pay awards for teachers, cutting the real value of pay and reducing its competitiveness, teacher supply problems will persist and the quality of education provision will decline.”