Teachers’ strike could see three-quarters of staff walk out, warns union

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“Under the trade union legislation, as it stands, a combination of Thatcher changes and those that came later, the leading time for a union to consider industrial action is quite substantial,” he said.

“The result is we often get unions planning for ballots – if they don’t, they can’t ever take action if they want to. We are getting ready – if you are going to have a strike then you have to.”

Teaching faces crisis ‘fuelled by low salaries’

Dr Bevan, the headmaster of Southend High School for Boys and a former president of the NEU, said that if the union is not satisfied with a pay settlement that will be announced by Nadhim Zahawi, the Education Secretary, in the coming weeks, it will undertake two separate ballots during the autumn term.

The first would be an indicative ballot to gauge the views of members. If this showed sufficient support for a strike, the second would be a full ballot for industrial action.

“If the Secretary of State’s decision causes enough union members to be deeply dissatisfied with what is on the table, the next step is to find out how strongly they feel,” said Dr Bevan.

“You do not go forward with your formal legal ballot until you have a pretty good indication of views. You are thinking about the messaging, making sure that your members understand the issues, that they understand what they may or may not be voting for, and get some sense of the strength of feeling.”

In March, the Government submitted its evidence to the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB) which proposed an 8.9 per cent increase to teachers’ starting salaries but just a three per cent increase for their more experienced colleagues.

The STRB is expected to make its recommendations to the ministers in the coming weeks, and Mr Zahawi will make a final decision after that.

Unions argue that teachers’ pay has fallen by a fifth in real terms since 2010 and that the profession faces a recruitment and retention crisis fuelled by low salaries.

Dr Bevan said that everyone, from “hardened trade unionists” to parents, wants their children to have a well-paid and well-resourced education system.

“For any group of workers who find themselves in a position where they are being treated profoundly badly, then there comes a point when you say enough is enough,” he said. “If you ask my view, I think we are getting close to it.”

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