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Largest teaching union threatens to ballot members in England on strike action | Industrial action


Leaders of the country’s largest teaching union say they will ballot their members on strike action later this year unless the government agrees to an “inflation-plus” pay rise.

The joint general secretaries of the National Education Union (NEU) said in a letter to the education secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, that they would campaign in favour of industrial action if the government persisted in its current plan for a 3% pay increase for most teachers in England, after the latest figures showed the consumer price index rising 9.1% last month.

“You must respond to the new economic reality of double-digit inflation and the threat this poses to teacher living standards. We call on you to commit to an inflation-plus increase for all teachers,” the letter stated.

“A clear and unambiguous signal that educators are valued, with undifferentiated inflation-plus pay increases for all teachers, is urgently needed. And you must fund schools accordingly.”

The letter argued that schools across England are reporting difficulty in retaining and recruiting staff, with teacher pay having fallen by a fifth in real terms since 2010 before this year’s increases in inflation. The NEU said that left teachers’ salaries at their lowest level compared with average earnings for more than 40 years.

“Teacher workload remains at unsustainable levels. Pay cuts and excessive workload combine to intensify the already serious recruitment and retention problems.

“Failing to recruit or retain enough teachers adds to the workload problems and highlights the damage caused by previous pay cuts, but the government plans more pay cuts and has not taken effective action on workload,” the NEU said.

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The NEU’s letter follows a similar demand from the other major teaching union, the NASUWT, which earlier this week said it would hold a strike ballot if the government “does not deliver pay restoration for teachers”.

Patrick Roach, the NASUWT general secretary, said: “If the government and the pay review body reject a positive programme of restorative pay awards for teachers, then we will be asking our members whether they are prepared to take national industrial action in response.”

Schools are waiting for the annual recommendation on teacher pay to be published by the independent School Teachers Review Body. In December Zahawi formally requested that the body consider pay awards for 2022-23 and 2023-24 to raise the starting salary for teachers in England to £30,000.

That would mean an 8.9% rise next year to minimum starting salaries but leave only a 3% or 2% rise for most teachers and school leaders. Ministers have said there will be no additional funding for school budgets to cover any pay increases.

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