Teacher strikes

Union launches new dispute as Keegan ‘frustrates’ pay review

NASUWT says education secretary's sluggish pay response puts progress 'in jeopardy'

NASUWT says education secretary's sluggish pay response puts progress 'in jeopardy'

4 Dec 2023, 17:36

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Dr Patrick Roach

The teachers’ union NASUWT has launched a new dispute with the government – accusing Gillian Keegan of “seeking to delay the pay review” process.

The row has erupted amid claims the education secretary has attempted to “frustrate the statutory scheme” by failing to send a remit letter to the School Teachers’ Review Body “in a timely manner”.

The document is sent to the STRB every year and asks it to make its recommendations for teachers’ pay and conditions the following May.

Keegan wrote to the independent body last November, a month earlier than her predecessors Nadhim Zahawi and Sir Gavin Williamson in 2021 and 2020.

But despite promising in July to “streamline” the STRB process in order to stop decisions on wages from being left until the end of summer, Keegan still has not sent 2024’s remit letter.

Keegan accused of ‘interfering’ in pay process

NASUWT said this “places in jeopardy the ability of the pay review body process to be concluded in an appropriate timeframe”.

In a statement released today, Dr Patrick Roach, the union’s general secretary, added: “The education secretary is deliberately interfering in the pay review process by her failure to issue a remit to the STRB, in spite of the commitments she gave to unions in the summer to avoid the prospect of nationally coordinated strike action. 

“Gillian Keegan is adding insult to injury by preventing the established pay review body process from taking place. It is regrettable but perhaps unsurprising that the secretary of state is seeking to delay the pay review body process after the Chancellor’s autumn statement confirmed the government’s intention to inflict further real terms pay cuts on hardworking teachers.”

Roach said it was “plain for all to see the utter contempt” the government has for the teaching profession.

NASUWT in separate dispute

He also wrote to Keegan to tell her it is “in dispute with you over your failure to provide an appropriate remit to…enable the pay review body to examine and bring forward recommendations on matters regarding the pay and conditions of teachers”.

The letter noted the “failure to issue a remit letter…in a timely manner is, in our view, an attempt to frustrate the statutory scheme”. It also stated the union “remains in dispute” with the education secretary “over the failure of the government to agree [to] the NASUWT’s demand for a fully funded restorative pay award for all teachers” in state schools.

Roach insisted he has “no wish to see further escalation of industrial dispute”. Despite this, NASUWT reserves “the right to do so in the event that you [Keegan] do not now respond to the matters raised”.

The government has been repeatedly criticised for leaving decisions about pay to right at the end of the summer term each year, after schools have already drawn up their budgets.

Government urged to ‘honour’ pay promise

Gillian Keegan
Gillian Keegan

The education secretary told a webinar during the summer she understood “the timing of the STRB process and the budgeting process is, let’s just say not ideal, as someone who’s done loads of budgets, I can understand and feel your pain”.

“We will also look to streamline that process so that you get the information early so that you’re not trying to anticipate what percentage you should put in for this or what percentage you should put in for that.”

Roach called on Keegan to honour her commitments and ensure the STRB “is issued with an appropriate remit so that it can immediately consider the matters relating to teachers’ pay and conditions for 2024/25”.

A DfE spokesperson stressed the department “delivered on the manifesto commitment to give every new teacher a starting salary of at least £30,000 – alongside the highest pay award for teachers in over 30 years”.

“We are committed to the independent pay review body process and we will always carefully consider the operation of the pay round on any given year.”

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