A series of teacher strikes planned for next week are set to go ahead as no progress has been made in negotiations over pay between the leading education union and the Government.
The National Education Union (NEU) said this week it was “prepared to recommend a pause to strikes” to its national executive committee on Saturday in a “sign of goodwill”, but only if a “serious proposal” was made to end the dispute.
Regional walkouts by NEU members are planned for 28 February, 1 and 2 March, with national strike action across England and Wales planned for 15 and 16 March.
On Saturday, the union, which represents more than 500,000 teaching staff, said it is not expecting any developments and that plans to strike remain in place.
Education Secretary Gillian Keegan had written to teaching unions inviting them to “formal talks on pay, conditions and reform” on the condition that next week’s strike action is cancelled.
On Friday, the Department for Education (DfE) said it was “disappointing” that the NEU was unwilling to call off industrial action in exchange for a promise of negotiations.
When and where strikes are taking place
The industrial action will be a mixture of national and regional walkouts, with strikes set to take place on the following days:
- 28 February – regional strike in North, North West, Yorkshire & The Humber.
- 1 March – regional strike in the West Midlands, East Midlands and East
- 2 March – regional strike in the South West, South East and London
In Wales, members of the same union are also set to strike on Thursday 2 March after postponing action on 14 February following talks with the Welsh Government.
If a pay deal has still not met by this time, the NEU will launch further strikes on:
- 15 March – national strike across England and Wales
- 16 March – national strike across England and Wales
By Jaymi McCann
Dr Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney, joint general secretaries of the NEU, responded: “It is completely disingenuous to suggest that we are not willing to enter talks with Government.
“We are absolutely ready to come to talks. What we cannot accept are pre-conditions which require us to pause strike action before we have made any progress through negotiations to resolve this dispute.”
i understands that the NEU will not agree to formal talks with Ms Keegan unless her current offer of a 3.5 per cent pay rise for teachers is “substantively improved”.
The offer, which drops to 3 per cent for experienced teachers, is well below unions’ demands of a 12 per cent pay rise for their members.
In a statement on Friday, the DfE appeared to suggest that the NEU was being stubborn compared to unions in other sectors, noting that Ms Keegan’s offer was “mirroring the approach agreed by the Government with the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).”
The RCN paused plans for a two-day strike next week in England after Rishi Sunak agreed to move his red line on pay, in a major breakthrough in the months-long dispute.
Other teaching unions have also criticised the Education Secretary’s hardline approach, with the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) describing Ms Keegan’s offer as an “olive branch with thorns attached”.
Speaking on Friday, Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT, said: “It is completely unacceptable that some of the most experienced and senior leaders in our schools continue to be under-valued and underpaid.
“Urgent action is needed to resolve this. In the short-term, this must include a significant pay increase for all teachers and leaders, including school business leaders, fully funded by the Government.”