26 Jun 2011

Gove warning to teachers ahead of walkout

As public sector workers prepare for walkouts across the country on 30 June, Education Secretary Michael Gove warns that teachers risk losing public respect if they engage in “militancy”.

Mr Gove said the Government was doing everything possible to keep schools open on Thursday, including appealing to parents to help out.

Speaking on BBC1’s Andrew Marr show, he said: “If schools aren’t open on Thursday there will be massive inconvenience for working parents, in particular single parents, who will have to rearrange childcare at very short notice.”

If schools aren’t open on Thursday, there will be massive inconvenience for working parents. Michael Gove, Education Secretary

He continued: “I think it is right that schools stay open. Maybe they won’t be offering the traditional menu, but I think they should be open so the children are doing something purposeful and people aren’t inconvenienced.”

Mr Gove told Andrew Marr that the walkouts would be “premature” because negotiations over the controversial pension reforms were still taking place.

Thursday’s action has been triggered by Government plans to raise the state pension age in the public sector to 66 by 2020 and to force people to pay more for smaller pensions.

It is unclear how many schools will be forced to close for the day, but unions say they enjoy significant support.

Monday will see crucial talks between Government and the unions. The following day the Prime Minister, David Cameron, is to make a key speech on pensions in which he will set out a defence of the Government’s position.

Labour leader Ed Miliband has also come out against strike action because of the inconvenience he believes it will cause to the public.

If nothing is changed, we clearly have the right to take industrial action. Mark Serwotka, PCS union

The fear among ministers is that Thursday’s walkouts will be the first of many anti-government protests. Dave Prentis, general secretary of the Unison public services union, claimed he was ready to mount “the most sustained campaign of industrial action the country has seen since the general strike of 1926”.

And Public and Commercial Services (PCS) leader Mark Serwotka has warned that up to 750,000 public sector employees could take co-ordinated action on 30 June, making it the biggest day of industrial action for years.

Interviewed on Channel 4 News on 15 June alongside Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude, Mr Serwotka said he had been negotiating with ministers for four months without any sign of Government compromise.

“You can talk as long as you like, but they are implementing the cuts,” he told Jon Snow. “If nothing is changed, we clearly have the right to take industrial action.”