Further strike action is 'inevitable', teaching unions warn after pay talks end in stalemate

15 February 2023, 15:12

The National Education Union has warned that staff will do "whatever it takes" to achieve a desirable salary hike.
The National Education Union has warned that staff will do "whatever it takes" to achieve a desirable salary hike. . Picture: Alamy

By Hannah Holland

"Teachers will not back down" over pay, the National Education Union has warned after the fourth round of government talks did not lead to a new offer.

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The National Education Union (NEU) and leaders of three other teaching unions joined Education Secretary Gillian Keegan for a roundtable on Wednesday to discuss pay and working conditions in a bid to prevent further walkouts.

The talks were the first since more than 100,000 teachers walked out earlier this month in the first of seven planned strikes throughout February and March. The historical walkout saw more than half of schools in England close or partially close and an estimated 4.5 million children forced to stay home.

The National Education Union has warned that staff will do "whatever it takes" to achieve a desirable salary hike.

READ MORE: PM says 'children deserve to be in school' after less than half of schools in England open fully on 'Walkout Wednesday'

February 1 2023 marked the biggest day of industrial action in over a decade with up to half a million workers walking out over pay disputes.
February 1 2023 marked the biggest day of industrial action in over a decade with up to half a million workers walking out over pay disputes. Picture: Alamy

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU, said while there was a "more positive tone" during the talks, "nothing in this meeting gave us anything we could work with to justify suspending the next day of regional strikes on 28 February".

"Gillian Keegan and the Government need to be aware that teachers will not back down on this," he said, adding that the profession has been left "utterly demoralised" after a decade of falling wages.

keegan
Education Secretary Gillian Keegan failed to make a pay offer during the latest round of talks. Picture: Alamy

"We hope that the prospect of three days of strike action in regions of England from 28 February to 2 March will concentrate minds in Whitehall," he added.

Unions are demanding a 12% pay rise for their members, rather than the 5% offered by the Government. They claim teacher's pay has fallen by nearly a quarter in real terms since 2010 and that the low pay is responsible for the recruitment and retention crises the industry is facing.

READ MORE: Teacher strike dates 2023: When is the next walkout and why?

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said there was a "limit to how many times we can come out of a meeting with the Education Secretary without progress being made".

"While the tone of today's talks signalled a greater sense of urgency on the part of the Government, we have to report that once again there is no new offer to improve the inadequate pay settlement which has sparked the ongoing dispute," he said.

"We cannot go on like this. Unless there is tangible progress towards an improved offer the prospect of further strike action by NEU members is inevitable."

Mr Barton also warned that failure to reach a compromise could result in unions, such as the ASCL and the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), deciding to re-ballot their members, which mean the next strikes could see double the amount of teachers walk out.

Teachers in Wales have rejected a pay offer from the Welsh governments and are set to return to the picket lines on 2 March.

The Scottish government has also put forward a revised pay offer, a 6% pay rise in the current year and a further 5.5% in the new financial year, with additional funding of £156m. The new offer will be put to teachers within days in a bid to avoid further strike action.

Dr Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT union, said unions were "still some way off from hearing what specific proposals the government is willing to put on the table".

"Given developments in Wales and Scotland in the last week the education secretary has some catching up to do," he added.

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