Hundreds of thousands of teachers and school leaders will be re-balloted for strikes from today as the long-running pay dispute with the government continues.
The National Education Union (NEU) began its latest ballot of around 300,000 teacher members in England this morning. It will run until July 28.
Headteachers’ union NAHT has also opened a fresh ballot for industrial action, which will close on July 31.
It comes after members of both unions rejected the government’s offer on pay and working conditions for teachers and leaders.
All four teaching and leadership unions are due to go to their members in the coming weeks.
If the ballots pass the legal threshold, leaders have said they will coordinate strikes in the autumn term this year.
Leaders have preducted such a scenario could see all state schools in England disrupted, with NEU joint general secretary Kevin Courtney previously claiming up to 400,000 staff could walk out.
NEU’s current mandate ends in July
Teacher members of the NEU, the only union to have so far won a ballot, have staged several walkouts since February in a push for a bigger pay increase.
But the mandate of the union’s current ballot – which saw 90.44 per cent members vote in favour of strikes – ends on July 13.
The NAHT announced last month that it would re-ballot headteachers, after its previous vote on industrial action failed to reach the turnout threshold required.
Unlike the last ballot, its latest vote will seek a mandate for full strikes alone. Heads were previously asked if they backed strikes and action short of a strike.
The NAHT’s dispute with the government has also been widened to cover not just pay and funding, but also recruitment and retention, workload and wellbeing, and inspection, including its impact on headteachers’ mental health.
Teachers’ union NASUWT will re-ballot members on pay, workload and working hours from June 5 to July 10. It also fell short of the turnout threshold last time. A vote for sixth-form college members, launched today, will run until June 12.
Dates for leaders’ union ASCL’s vote, the first formal national ballot in its history, are yet to be confirmed.
Re-ballots should be a ‘wake-up call’ to ministers
“With four education unions balloting members for strike action in the autumn term this should be a wake-up call,” NEU joint general secretaries Dr Mary Bousted and Courtney said in a statement.
“Our re-ballot would allow the NEU to co-ordinate action with other teacher unions in the autumn term if government does not provgide a settlement to the dispute.
“It is never too late for the education secretary to come to the negotiating table and make an improved offer.”
Members of all four unions rejected the government’s pay offer of a £1,000 one-off payment this year and a 4.3 per cent rise for most teachers from September by large margins.
Unions have disputed the government’s claim the offer is fully-funded.
The Office for Statistics Regulation said last week that ministers had “evidenced” this claim in line with their own “definition”, but said they must be more transparent about affordability for individual schools.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of NAHT, said “no further meaningful talks” had taken place with education secretary Gillian Keegan since members rejected the offer.
“Nobody working in education wants to have to go on strike,” he added.
“But it seems this is the only way to open the government’s eyes to the mess our education system is in, and the recruitment and retention crisis fuelled by years of real-terms pay and funding cuts, unsustainable workload and high-stakes inspections which harm staff wellbeing.”
A DfE spokesperson said it had “made a pay offer to unions that was fair, reasonable, and recognised teachers’ hard work”.