Teachers threaten more strike action

PUBLISHED: 17:08 30 April 2008 | UPDATED: 09:42 23 August 2010

MILLIONS of parents were forced to take a day off work or find alternative childcare when teachers staged the first national strike in 20 years. However, the nightmare is far from over as members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) have threatened fu

MILLIONS of parents were forced to take a day off work or find alternative childcare when teachers staged the first national strike in 20 years.

However, the nightmare is far from over as members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) have threatened further strikes if the government doesn't buckle to better pay demands.

The union has already agreed to meet in May to discuss their strategy despite criticism that the action has had a devastating effect on the economy.

Across Kent, 66 schools closed partially while 17 were fully shut. Shorne Church of England Primary School, Shorne, and Lawn Primary School, High Street, Northfleet, were both closed for the whole day. Parents had to find emergency care for their children.

Both schools declined to comment on the industrial action or the disruption it had caused to parents.

A spokesperson for Kent County Council said: "In Bexley, seven schools were completely closed while 23 were partially shut but in Dartford all schools remained open.

Bexley National Union of Teachers (NUT) representative, Jill Saunder, said: "We don't feel valued at all. We were forced to strike but it was a last resort.

"Some of the teachers did it with a heavy heart. It's not an easy or nice thing to do but we suspect this will be repeated by other public sector workers after us."

Acting General Secretary of the NUT, Europe's largest teaching union, Christine Blower, said they would "obviously" consider striking again if the government does not back down.

She said: "This is not just a one-year issue. After three years of below inflation pay increases the prospect for a further three years of the same is the last straw."

Ms Blower accused the government of an effective pay cut because the Retail Price Index, which features on government websites as the figure used for pay bargaining, is currently running at a yearly average of 4.1 per cent.

However, teachers are only being offered 2.45 per cent.

She said: "Year on year pay that fails to keep pace with inflation has real consequences for the profession and our schools.

"It saps morale and causes problems in regards to recruitment, retention and teacher shortages, not to mention real financial difficulty for our members. It is time to call a halt."

Also joining the strike were members of the University and College Union (UCU).

Bromley College branch chair, Steve Collinson, was amongst staff who picketed last Thursday. He claims staff have still not brought in new pay scales agreed in 2004.

Lecturers at the college who are on band B pay earn between £24,117 and £26,240, including London weighting, but because of the pay banding system staff can't earn more unless they move to higher-banded management jobs.

"People are demoralised, stressed and stretched," said Mr Collinson. "There is a level of discontent but it's not rock bottom yet. The workload seems to increase daily, especially the paperwork.

"We are overworked and underpaid. It's damaging recruitment levels, the teacher pool is diminishing."

Schools Secretary, Ed Balls, said the government believed teachers should be paid properly, but said their pay had already risen by 19 per cent since 1997. Average teacher pay is now £34,000.

Schools Minister, Jim Knight, claimed the pay deal offered was crucial in keeping the economy afloat.

He said: "Of course teachers must be properly rewarded. But it is because teachers have mortgages too that I know they understand the need for a pay deal that helps deliver low inflation, low interest rates and a stable economy.

"The right way to discuss and decide matters of pay and conditions is through a transparent and independent process, the outcome of which all parties respect.

"That is the course we have chosen, and by working together we can continue to strengthen the teaching profession and continue to deliver excellent education for all children and families.


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