Teaching union rules out strike

Witney Gazette: NASUWT's national executive said it remains "deeply concerned" about Government education policies, but its members will not be staging a walkout this term NASUWT's national executive said it remains "deeply concerned" about Government education policies, but its members will not be staging a walkout this term

One of Britain's biggest teaching unions has announced it will not be taking strike action in a long running dispute over pay, conditions and pensions.

NASUWT's national executive said it remains "deeply concerned" about the "adverse effect" of the Government's policies.

But its members will not be staging a walkout this term, unlike members of the National Union of Teachers who announced last week they will be staging a walk out on March 26.

NASUWT said teachers across the country remained "angry, frustrated and demoralised" as a result of their dispute with the Education Secretary Michael Gove.

But they said they were encouraged by the "goodwill" shown by Mr Gove, who has agreed to sit down for talks with the union later this month.

The Conservative minister has also accepted all of the recommendations of a new report by the School Teachers' Review Body, which union officials say safeguards important contractual entitlements for teachers.

Chris Keates, general secretary of NASUWT, which represents nearly 300,000 teachers, said Mr Gove's behaviour had created a "window of opportunity" to settle the long-running dispute.

She said: "The acceptance by the Secretary of State of the Review Body's recommendations, which protect important contractual entitlements including provisions on working time, holidays, preparation, planning and assessment, and cover, has been welcomed by the NASUWT and by teachers in general.

"This development is a victory for NASUWT members who have shown support and solidarity for the NASUWT's ongoing industrial action strategy.

"However, the imposition of adverse and damaging changes means that the teaching profession remains on the verge of a national recruitment and retention crisis.

"The relentless attack on every aspect of teachers' working lives, as a consequence of Coalition Government reforms, is continuing to take its toll."

She accused Mr Gove of being evasive and delaying meetings with the union, but said his commitment to sit down and talk at a meeting on February 25 "provides a window of opportunity for genuine progress to be made".

She added: "Teachers will expect the Secretary of State to show that he is seriously committed to building trust and confidence with the profession by demonstrating in these meetings that he is prepared to listen to and address teachers' deep concerns.

"The NASUWT national executive and NASUWT members recognise that the only way to resolve a dispute is for the parties directly involved to sit down to have serious discussions on the issues of concern.

"The NASUWT will therefore engage in the programme of talks with the Secretary of State and will review progress in the talks this term.

"The NASUWT will expect the Secretary of State to recognise the enormous damage that has been inflicted on teachers as a result of the changes to teachers' pay, pensions, conditions of service and job security since 2010."

A spokeswoman for the union said its leadership was also aware that many families have been hit with problems getting to school as severe flooding and gale-force winds continue to wreak devastation to parts of Britain.

She said the union is concerned to ensure their industrial action remains "pupil, parent and public friendly" and did not want to heap fresh disruption on these families.

However, the union's leadership left the door open for strikes after this term finishes in Easter by reaffirming its "commitment to pursue all elements of its industrial action strategy" in the future.

NASUWT has been engaged in a series of strikes since balloting its members in November 2011.

But their decision not to stage a walk-out this term contrasts starkly with the NUT, which last week announced its members will strike next month.

Announcing the walk-out last week, the NUT's general secretary Christine Blower accused Mr Gove of "persistent refusals" to address concerns over pay, pensions and conditions.

She warned that thousands of good and experienced teachers were leaving the profession because they are fed up with their treatment, and that a "teacher shortage crisis is looming".

A Department for Education spokesman said: "The unions called for talks to avoid industrial action, we agreed to their request, and those talks will begin shortly.

"It is disappointing that the NUT, unlike NASUWT, has decided to press ahead regardless with unnecessary strike action, which will only inconvenience parents and damage children's education."

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