Teacher strikes: NAHT will re-ballot members, Whiteman pledges

Leader says union will 'test members' views again when talks conclude or break down'

Leader says union will 'test members' views again when talks conclude or break down'

Paul Whiteman

The NAHT school leaders’ union will re-ballot its members for industrial action, its leader has confirmed, after its previous vote failed to reach the turnout threshold required.

The organisation said last week that it was considering going back to its membership after just 42 per cent of eligible members voted in its last ballot, short of the 50 per cent required by law.

NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman has now confirmed to Schools Week the union is “committed to balloting again”, although it will wait until talks with the government either come to an end or break down.

Of those members who did vote, 64 per cent of those supported strikes and 87 per cent backed action short of a strike.

We revealed last week that as many as one in seven members may have been denied the chance to vote in the NAHT’s strike ballot because of disruption caused by postal strikes.

Rob Kelsall, the union’s national secretary, said at the time that he was “confident that had that disruption not happened, that threshold would have been met”.

The exact wording of a second ballot would need to be agreed by the union’s leadership, but the NAHT expects to once again ask leaders to support both strike action and action short of strike.

‘We are committed to balloting again’

Crunch talks between union bosses and education secretary Gillian Keegan, and Friday’s meeting with Department for Education officials, have so far failed to find a compromise on teacher pay and school funding.

Whiteman told Schools Week the union’s national executive committee was “concerned that our democratic process was materially compromised by the Royal Mail chaos”.

“Because of this we are committed to balloting again.”

He said the fact the ballot was held in the first place – NAHT’s first over pay in its 125-year history – had helped secure more money for schools in the autumn statement and brought ministers to the table.

The union will “wait and see how much progress is made before we ballot again”, Whiteman said.

“Anti trade union law means ballot results have a limited shelf life so we will test members’ views again when talks conclude or break down.”

Members of the National Education Union are preparing to strike across England next week, on the first of six days of action planned throughout February and March. The union achieved a turnout of 53 per cent in its ballot.

The NASUWT teaching union, which also fell short of the turnout threshold, has also said it will re-ballot its members.

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