A national strike by the NASUWT and National Union of Teachers is back on the cards after the unions accused education secretary Michael Gove of “resorting to provocation”.
The unions suspended a national strike planned for later this term after receiving commitment from the Department for Education (DfE) to discuss their grievances.
It followed a series of regional strikes which took place between June and October this year. The unions are angry over changes to workload, pensions, and pay and conditions, including the move to performance-related pay.
However, a letter published by Mr Gove earlier this month has further angered the unions, causing them to confirm on Monday (November 11) that plans remain in place for national strike action “no later than February 13”.
In his letter to NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates and her NUT counterpart Christine Blower, Mr Gove said: “As I have made clear, I am very happy to meet with you to continue our frank and cordial discussions. I will meet with you as many times as would be helpful to you.”
However, he then made clear that the talks would focus on implementation of policy, rather than the policies themselves. He continued: “I am fully committed to resolving your trade disputes and have offered a programme of talks. A programme of talks would focus on the implementation of policy, given that the direction of policy on pay and pensions is fixed following full consultation.”
He also said the talks must include other unions not involved in the dispute to “ensure that all are represented fairly, and striking unions do not have any unfair advantage over other organisations which have not taken strike action”.
He added: “The programme of talks will be mainly official-led, in order to cover the kind of detail which will allow meaningful discussion, but I will be involved closely throughout. I suggest we meet initially to kick off the talks and discuss what we hope to achieve.”
A joint response from the NASUWT and NUT, which represent 85 per cent of teachers in England and Wales, accused Mr Gove of “provocation”.
Their statement said: “The NUT and the NASUWT are disappointed that the secretary of state, rather than seeking genuinely to engage in talks to seek to resolve our disputes has, in his letter of 6 November, resorted to provocation.
“The NASUWT and the NUT have issued today (November 11) a further joint letter highlighting to the secretary of state the importance of committing to genuine talks to seek resolution of the trade disputes.”
The joint statement added: “The secretary of state has also been reminded that in accordance with Section 244(2) of the Trade Union Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, these trade disputes are only capable of resolution by agreement between the secretary of state as a minister of the crown and the NASUWT and the NUT.
“The NUT and NASUWT confirm that plans remain in place for a national strike in England and Wales no later than February 13, 2014, in the event of insufficient progress through negotiation.”