Unions warn of national teaching strike

NUT Wigan chapel members during strike in Manchester in June 2013
NUT Wigan chapel members during strike in Manchester in June 2013

WIGAN schools face another forced closure as two leading teaching unions are threatening a national one-day strike before Christmas.

Thousands of schoolchildren in the borough missed a day’s education in June because of a regional strike by unions NUT and NASUWT.

Wigan NUT divisional secretary Max Atkins said education minister Michael Gove has refused to negotiate with the unions.

He said: “The reason we have planned the regional strikes in stages was to give Mr Gove the change to come to the table. But he has not.

“The next stage for us is to continue the regional strikes and the national one-day walkout will take place in the Autumn.

“We are not asking for much, we just want to keep what we have been given by previous governments.”

The teaching unions are in dispute with the government about reductions to their pensions, changes to working hours and pay that will be linked to performance.

A Department for Education spokesman said: “It is disappointing that the NUT and NASUWT are striking over the Government’s measures to allow heads to pay good teachers more.

“In a recent poll, 61 per cent of respondents supported linking pay to performance and 70 per cent either opposed the strikes or believed teachers should not be allowed to strike at all.”

The majority of Wigan’s secondary schools were forced to close because of the June strike and primary schools, nurseries and colleges were also affected.

And hundreds of union supporters took part in protest rallies in Manchester, Liverpool and Preston.

The unions have not set a date for the national strike and are calling for further talks.

NUT general secretary Christine Blower said: “At the start of the new academic year, the last thing teachers wish to be doing is preparing for further industrial action.

“With pay, pensions and working conditions being systematically attacked and an education secretary who refuses to listen or negotiate, teachers now have no other choice.”

NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates added: “This is not a reckless rush to strike action.

“We have been trying to engage with Mr Gove since he came to office.

“No one wants to be disrupting children’s education. Our experience is parents understand that if you attack teachers’ pay and conditions you are putting at risk their children’s education.”