Politics

Truss faces triple strike threat as education unions consult members

Headteachers could walk out alongside support staff and teachers in unprecedented action over pay

Headteachers could walk out alongside support staff and teachers in unprecedented action over pay

Liz Truss’s government faces a potential triple whammy of industrial action this year from teachers, support staff and even school leaders in response to ministers’ pay proposals.

The ASCL school leaders’ union is consulting its members on whether to ballot for industrial action for the first time in its 16-year history.

And the NAHT leadership union has said it is listening to members to understand the “depths of their frustration”, and is not ruling “any action in or out”.

Unions were unanimous in their condemnation of pay proposals announced earlier this year.

The government is proposing a 5 per cent rise for most teachers and leaders, while starting salaries will rise by 8.9 per cent.

Support staff have been offered rises of £1,925, working out as a 10.5 per cent hike for the lowest-paid, but just 4 per cent for higher earners. Inflation now stands at 10.1 per cent.

The National Education Union has promised the “largest teachers’ pay ballot in a generation” when it formally asks around 250,000 members in November if they want to go on strike.

NASUWT, another teaching union, is consulting members on the pay proposals until September 23 “and will then decide next steps in terms of whether we go ahead with any ballot and the timing if so after that point”.

ASCL consults on strikes for the first time

National teacher strikes happen infrequently, and winning ballots was made harder by new thresholds in 2017. But a walk-out of heads would be unprecedented.

ASCL has not consulted members on potential national industrial action since its formation in 2006. NAHT members have only walked out en-masse once – over pensions – in 2011.

Geoff Barton, ASCL’s general secretary, said his union was asking members whether they would support an indicative ballot for both strike action or action that falls just short, such as “withdrawing from certain tasks”.

“We have never felt the need to ask this latter question before and the fact that we are doing so is a sign of how frustrated people feel after over a decade of real-terms pay cuts.”

The NAHT’s Paul Whiteman said there was “anger and dismay as schools are forced to make cuts that will directly impact children and education”.

“We are currently working hard to hear from all our members and to understand the depths of their frustration. At this stage we cannot rule any action in or out.”

The GMB and Unison are consulting support staff members on whether to accept or reject their pay offer. Unite, which also represents some support staff, is balloting for strike action.

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