Teachers vote to consider industrial action over pay

Walkouts over pay have moved a step closer after two major teaching unions voted in favour of industrial action to secure wage hikes.

Members of the NASUWT union, meeting at its annual conference in Birmingham, voted unanimously in favour of considering the use of rolling industrial action if the Government fails to ensure a better pay deal for workers.

Meanwhile in Brighton, the NUT section of the National Education Union (NEU) committed to balloting its members for strikes if its demands over pay are not met.

Schoolchildren across the country could face disruption if walkouts were to go ahead.

Teachers have not had a pay rise above 1% in the last seven years due to the Government's austerity measures. Other public sector workers have also been affected.

Introducing the motion at the NASUWT conference, Steve Thompson, a teacher from Leeds, said: "It's clear to all why there is a recruitment and retention crisis in the profession.

"There is only one way to address this - the pay cap must be lifted.

"It's clear that a substantial, above inflation rise in teachers' pay is required and is long overdue."

Martin Hudson, from Newcastle upon Tyne, called on colleagues to "pull up our socks" and "send a very clear message to everyone".

"We've had enough - we need to demand and secure a well-deserved and substantial pay rise for teachers. Conference, we need to effectively challenge seven years of derisory pay awards."

Lincoln-based teacher Daniel Carvalho, who arrived in the UK in 2015, brought levity to the conference when he told delegates to take advantage of staff shortages.

He said: "I got a pay rise - not because I'm an outstanding teacher, I'm far from that. Trust me, I can show you my lesson observations.

"I told my line manager once: 'I know I'm not indispensable - but I can guarantee I get a job faster than you can find another teacher'.

"If we do not demand a pay rise now, forget about it."

The unanimous vote means the NASUWT's executive will meet at a later date and decide whether to ballot members on the use of rolling strike action.

Proposing the NEU resolution, Lisa Murray from Lewes, Eastbourne, told delegates that at her school, along with six others in East Sussex, union members are being balloted for action over pay in their area.

"Our teachers are fed up with low pay, erosion of pay structures and watching teachers leaving the profession," she said.

"They deserve better and more importantly, they want to do something about it."

Jane Nellist, of the union's executive, said that the union needs a "coherent and determined campaign that must involve industrial action".

"The Government is weak, but it is still dangerous," she said.

"It is still refusing to halt the huge haemorrhaging of teachers and they have failed to meet their own targets on recruitment."

The motion, which was overwhelmingly backed by delegates, calls for an immediate pay rise for teachers of at least 5% "to begin restoring the cuts in living standards all school staff have suffered".

It argues that teacher pay increases have been cumulatively around 15% lower than RPI inflation since 2010, leading to a real terms pay cut.

In addition, it includes a call for a clear limit on teachers' working hours.

The resolution commits the union to balloting members for walkouts "at the earliest opportunity" in the next academic year, if their pay demands are not met.

NEU joint general secretary Kevin Courtney said: "The union calls on the Government to introduce a working hours limit for teachers to deal with the workload crisis and to begin a process of the restoration of teacher pay starting with a 5% fully funded pay rise.

"The union will prepare to consult members widely on the action we need to take in order to win these demands and solve the teacher recruitment and retention crisis."

The NUT has recently merged with the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) to form the NEU, and this resolution will now go forward to the NEU's executive to decide how it should be taken forward.

A Department for Education statement read: "We have already given schools freedom over staff pay and have asked the independent School Teachers' Review Body to take account of the Government's flexible approach to public sector pay as they develop their recommendation.

"We want to continue to attract and keep the best and brightest people in our schools.

"That's why the Education Secretary recently announced a strategy to drive recruitment and boost retention of teachers, working with the unions and professional bodies, and pledged to strip away workload that doesn't add value in the classroom."