14 Jun 2011

Teachers’ unions vote for strike action

Teachers vote to strike over pension proposals, adding to the spate of union action threatening to halt public services in the coming months. Cathy Newman reports on the looming summer of discontent.

Teachers overwhelmingly backed plans for a strike on 30 June, which could affect thousands of schools across England and Wales.

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) object to moves that will see members working longer, paying more in pension contributions and receiving less when they retire.

The NUT’s ballot showed that 92 per cent were in favour of action, while 83 per cent of ATL’s members backed a strike. The ATL, which has never taken national strike action before, said the response from its members had been overwhelming.

The size of the strike could balloon to a walkout involving one million people if the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union joins in.

The PCS is due to announce the result of its strike ballot on Wednesday, which could see a further 750,000 teachers, civil servants and other public staff also striking on 30 June.

The NUT’s executive will meet tomorrow to discuss the results and decide it the union will stage a walkout.

Teachers to strike: The National Union of Teachers and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers have voted to go on strike on June 30 (Image: Getty)

Sustained strikes

The news follows a warning from the head of the UK’s biggest public sector union, Unison, that a further one million public sector workers will be balloted on a “sustained” programme of strikes this autumn.

Unison General Secretary Dave Prentis said yesterday: “This will be a major dispute. It will not be one day of action, it will be long-term industrial action throughout our public services.”

NUT’s General Secretary Christine Blower said the ballot result showed “exactly how angry people are about these pension changes”.

“The Government’s unnecessary attack on public sector pensions has convinced NUT members that there is no alternative but to support strike action,” she said.

“It is disgraceful that the Government is pressing ahead with its reforms which will affect teachers’ pensions.

“The Government knows that they are affordable. This is a policy which has nothing to do with economics and everything to do with politics.”

Last night, Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude said: “This Government’s key priority is to ensure that public service pensions remain among the very best and that is why we are engaged in serious talks with the TUC (Trades Union Congress).

“We have entered into these talks in good faith and are totally committed to them as, we believe, are the union representatives taking part, including Unison.”

Ms Blower said the NUT is party to the TUC negotiations will the Government, adding: “It is not too late for common sense to prevail”.