A national teachers’ strike looms large as the war of words continues


An angry exchange of letters between education minister Michael Gove and the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and NASUWT has raised the likelihood that teachers will take national strike action.

The two unions are locked in a war of words with the secretary of state over the format that negotiations to attempt to end their trade dispute should take.

Last week, the unions accused Michael Gove of “resorting to provocation” after he made clear in a letter on November 6 that any negotiations would focus on the implementation of policy and not the policies themselves. He also said that other unions and teachers’ organisations not involved in strike action must be included in any talks.

The unions, which are taking industrial action over changes to pensions, workload, pay and conditions – including the move to performance-related pay – wrote back to Mr Gove on November 11 urging him to commit to “genuine talks” and warning that plans remained in place for a national strike before February 13.

However, in another letter on Thursday (November 14), Mr Gove accused the unions of “opting for confrontation”.

He wrote: “I am ... saddened that you seem to be refusing to take part in the programme of talks which you had called for, simply because they are too inclusive. It appears that you are rejecting dialogue just because other organisations which represent teachers will be involved.

“The talks we are offering give you a chance to reset the agenda ... But it appears that you now want to walk away from dialogue and opt for confrontation. I do hope that you will think again.”

He ended his two-page letter by saying that the discussions at his offices would go ahead with the other organisations.

A further joint statement from the NASUWT and NUT, also issued last Thursday, accused Mr Gove of “game-playing”.

It added: “Such tactics do a grave disservice to children and young people and the education service. Teachers will be shocked at the cavalier attitude that he is taking to what are serious issues for the profession.

“Both unions have reasserted their commitment to taking part in meaningful talks genuinely to resolve our trade disputes. We urge the secretary of state to do the same.”

The statement added: “Should Michael Gove fail genuinely to engage to resolve the issues under dispute the NUT and NASUWT will have no other choice but to move to national strike in England and Wales no later than 13 February 2014.”

The national walk-out would come after a series of regional strikes took place between June and October this year.


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