The National Education Union (NEU) Monday announced that thousands of teachers in England and Wales are set to go on strike over low pay. The union organized a ballot of a total of 300,000 members, which included teachers and support staff in schools in England and Wales, calling for a “fully funded, above-inflation pay rise.” The union claimed the government and school employers failed to approve a fully-funded increase in pay for teachers which at least matched inflation levels and restored lost pay.
The union declared seven days of strike action in February and March after a 90.44 percent majority of teachers in England state-funded schools and a 92.28 percent majority in Wales state-funded schools voted for the strike action. Other voting members of the ballet included support staff in Wales state-funded schools and teachers in sixth-form colleges in England. However, the NEU’s ballot of support staff in schools and sixth-form colleges and support staff in England did not achieve the 50 percent ballot turnout required by law for action.
Dr. Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretaries of the National Education Union, expressed their disappointment in the government and accused government officials of promoting “draconian” anti-strike legislation, rather than cooperating with the union and addressing the causes of strike action. The NEU’s Monday statement read, in part:
This is not about a pay rise but correcting historic real-terms pay cuts. Teachers have lost 23% in real-terms since 2010, and support staff 27% over the same period. The average 5% pay rise for teachers this year is some 7% behind inflation. In the midst of a cost of living crisis, that is an unsustainable situation.
Secretary of State for Education Gillian Keegan described the strike action as “deeply disappointing for children and parents.” Keegan stated that the government already met the union’s demands by awarding teachers in England the highest pay rise in 30 years and approving their request for an additional £2 billion in school funding. In response to the new strike action, the Department for Education shared guidelines to help schools minimize disruption during any strike action.
The first strike is set to take place on February 1 and is estimated to affect 23,400 schools in England and Wales. NEU will be joined in a coordinated series of strikes, under Britain’s Trade Union Congress’s (TUC) “protect the right to strike” day. Rail workers and university and college faculty are also expected to strike on February 1.