Inflation-busting pay rises 'make no sense,' says Education Secretary as Britain grinds to a halt on Walkout Wednesday

1 February 2023, 00:02 | Updated: 1 February 2023, 08:15

Teachers, university workers, civil servants, train and bus drivers are going on strike today
Teachers, university workers, civil servants, train and bus drivers are going on strike today. Picture: LBC/Alamy
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

The Education Secretary told LBC this morning that she would do "anything possible" to avert further strikes but that "inflation-busting" pay rises make no sense.

Gillian Keegan said she would do “anything possible” - but “only things that make sense” to avert further strikes.

“Clearly inflation-busting pay rises make no sense,” she told Nick Ferrari at Breakfast today.

“My responsibility is to… make sure our children get a world-class education, and to do that we need to make sure we recruit the best and retain the best teachers," she added.

Education Secretary says she will do anything possible to advert strikes

Britain is to grind to a halt today during nationwide strike action by workers from a number of industries, including teachers, university workers, train drivers and civil servants.

The government has warned the nationwide industrial action will cause "significant disruption" to people's lives, with around 500,000 workers due to take part.

This would make it the biggest strike in a decade, according to the Trade Union Congress (TUC).

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan says she 'won't' be meeting with the striking teachers today.

Among those striking are members of the National Education Union, lecturers and librarians from the University College Union (UCU), and bus and train drivers from Abellio and Aslef unions.

In total, members from seven unions will go on strike.

The military is being drafted in to cover public sector workers during tomorrow's strike
The military is being drafted in to cover public sector workers during tomorrow's strike. Picture: Getty

Around 100,000 civil servants from 124 government departments are also set to strike in a row over pay and conditions.

This includes workers at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).

Some 600 military staff will be drafted as cover for striking public sector workers, as Downing street called the nationwide walkout "deeply concerning".

A spokesperson said: "I think the ongoing strike action is deeply concerning and will worry the public.

"We are putting in place significant mitigations which have previously helped reduce some of the impact from the strikes. But first and foremost, [we] would encourage unions to reconsider and continue discussions with the government."

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan
Education Secretary Gillian Keegan. Picture: Getty

The mass walkout comes after teachers' unions said Education Secretary Gillian Keegan had "squandered an opportunity" to avoid the strike action.

Around 23,000 schools are set to be affected by the strikes, which is the first of seven planned walkouts across England and Wales.

The Department for Education (DfE) has offered a 5% pay rise to most teachers, but the NEU is demanding a pay rise above inflation, which stands at 10.5%.

Some parents will be forced to take leave from work due to the strikes, while the NEU estimates that around 85% of schools in England and Wales will be fully or partially closed today.

Teachers have already gone on strike in Scotland
Teachers have already gone on strike in Scotland. Picture: Getty

The national walkout comes as MPs backed plans that will aim to enforce minimum service levels for some public sectors during strikes.

Under the bill, which was passed by MPs with 315 votes, some employees would be required to work during industrial action and could face the sack if they refuse.

It will face more scrutiny in the House of Lords before it officially becomes law.

Ambulance workers will go on strike on February 10
Ambulance workers will go on strike on February 10. Picture: Getty

Earlier today, Unison union announced that thousands of ambulance workers across five services in England will strike on February 10.

Unison announced the latest walkout in the long-running dispute over pay and staffing.

Ambulance workers in London, Yorkshire, the South West, North East and North West will take part in the strikes.

It means strikes will now be happening across the NHS every day next week apart from Wednesday.

Downing Street said the strikes were "deeply concerning".Unison said that unless the government has a "major rethink" over NHS pay, it will announce strike dates running into March.

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