The UK’s two biggest teaching unions, the NUT and the NASUWT, yesterday announced plans for jointly coordinated strike action and action short of strike action in the autumn. This came at a London press confernce to launch an ‘historic joint agreement’ committing the unions to work together to protect teachers and defend education.
NUT general secretary Christine Blower and NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates announced an ‘unprecedented joint campaign to end the continuing assault on the teaching profession’.
A joint statement said: ‘These sustained attacks on working conditions, pensions, pay, conditions of service and the threat to jobs are now so severe that the NASUWT and the NUT believe joint, coordinated and sustained action is essential.’
The two unions have written to Education Secretary Gove to seek urgent discussions ‘about the enormous threats to teacher morale and the education system itself’ and to reach agreement before the start of the next academic year.
Their statement said: ‘Should the government refuse to negotiate sensible arrangements which protect teachers and defend education, then it is the intention of the two unions to move to escalate industrial action.’ It added: ‘The campaign will involve working jointly on political lobbying, public campaigns, research and negotiation, together with a jointly coordinated programme of industrial action, including strike action and action short of strike action in the autumn.’
NASUWT General Secretary Chris Keates told the press conference: ‘Since the government came into office, there has been a relentless and unprecedented assault on teachers’ pay and conditions of service, which is damaging standards of education. Our two unions, which represent the overwhelming majority of the teaching profession, are united in our determination to defend education by protecting teachers.’
NUT General Secretary Christine Blower said: ‘Since coming to power the government has sought to undermine teachers. We need to stand together to protect our profession and the education system.’
Blower stressed that ‘the pensions campaign is far from over,’ and that both unions oppose the latest pensions ‘offer’.
Urging Gove to negotiate, she warned that ‘time is short’, the NUT pensions ballot ‘is still live’ and that ‘the NUT will be balloting for further action in the autumn’ over ‘wider issues decided at our conference’.
NASUWT leader Keates said that teachers have suffered ‘two years of a pay freeze’ and ‘by the autumn they will have had six months of increased pensions contributions’, which ‘costs them £3,500 in their salaries.’ This is on top of ‘job losses as a result of cuts in funding’.
She added that ‘teachers’ situation has been exacerbated by the drive to privatisation’ and changes in Health & Safety and employment laws. She said that ‘our members are continuing action short of strike action in an industrial dispute over pay, conditions and pensions’, adding that ‘there is a potential for an escalation of action in the autumn.’