New government could face industrial action over pay

strikes, industrial action, teachers' pay, unions

Teachers could take industrial action over pay after May’s general election, under proposals to be debated by the ATL teaching union.

A motion due to be tabled at the union’s annual conference next week raises serious concerns over the real-terms decline of pay levels in recent years, warning that many school staff are facing financial hardship.

It calls for a fresh campaign on the issue, including approaching fellow teaching unions to discuss the option of industrial action to increase salary levels.

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the union, said she was worried about the continuing restraints on teachers’ pay and the effect on the recruitment and retention of staff.

“Teachers have had no pay increase for two years, and three years with a 1 per cent pay increase,” she said.

She added that pay had fallen by 12 per cent in real terms during the coalition government’s time in office.

“If you look at a 12 per cent decline…in the end, if we don’t have some real action to restore teachers’ pay, then that would be a debate that ATL would have to have,” she said.

“I think when you link that lack of teachers’ pay rises with performance-related pay, I think a lot of members will be talking about how decisions are made in schools.”

The motion calls on ATL’s executive to “campaign for the education sector to have a significant pay rise and to make approaches to our sister unions to discuss and, if necessary, take part in joint action to start the process of the restoration of our real levels of pay”.

The most recent national teachers’ strike by the NUT took place in July 2014, just days before Michael Gove was replaced as education secretary by Nicky Morgan.

Another motion to be debated at the conference is titled “death by a thousand cuts”. It condemns the “pernicious and pervasive” impact of “unrelenting cuts” to schools and colleges, and calls on the union to support “the life chances of the sidelined students of the Gove generation”.

Other motions include one that criticises “endless changes to educational policies and the curriculum” and another which slams the government’s emphasis on “British values” in schools as “ill-considered, ill-defined and counterproductive”.

Dr Bousted has also accused Ms Morgan of snubbing the conference. “She was invited repeatedly, she has chosen not to attend,” she said.

“We don’t know why she is not attending, and I think this gives further suspicion and cynicism around the whole Workload Challenge, which was meant to be about reducing teacher workload and listening to the voice of the profession. She’ll speak to headteachers and school leaders, she won’t speak to teachers.

“If she really cared about teachers and she really cared about their working lives and the work that they’re doing and the issues they want to raise, she would come. And she would know at ATL that she would be given a professional, respectful hearing and she’s chosen not to, and I think that is a great shame. She’s missing an important means to engage with teachers.”

Dr Bousted said that Liberal Democrat schools minister David Laws had told the union he would not be able to attend as he is involved in writing his party’s election manifesto.This will be the first time that the coalition government has not sent a minister to address ATL’s annual conference since 2010 – the year of the last general election – when Mr Gove, Mr Laws and former education secretary Ed Balls were all in attendance.

A Department for Education spokesman confirmed that Ms Morgan would not be attending the conference “because of diary commitments”.

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