Britain’s Teachers Unions Announce Rolling Strikes for Fall

Labor strife threatens to disrupt classes this fall as Britain’s chief teachers unions, the NUT and NASUWT, plan a one-day walkout to protest pay, pension and working conditions, the Guardian reports. The strikes are scheduled to take place in the first and third weeks of October and will affect schools in all districts in England and Wales.

Union officials announced the rolling strikes, which are scheduled for the week of September 30th and October 14th. They follow on the heels of a walkouts staged by the unions last month as the 2012-13 academic year drew to a close.

General Secretary of the NASUWT Chris Keates claimed that the unions were left without an option because they felt that the secretary of state wasn’t taking their concerns seriously. In a statement, Keates blamed the government for failing to engage in good faith discussions with union leaders.

Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT, said: “Strike action is always a last resort for teachers and they are very well aware of the difficulties that this causes for parents and pupils. Teachers, however, have been left with no option. If we do not take a stand now to defend the profession, then the consequences for teacher recruitment and education will be disastrous for all.”

Michael Gove, Britain’s Education Secretary, expressed willingness to meet with the unions in a letter last month. However, he was clear that when it came to the teachers’ chief concerns – pay and pensions – the government wasn’t open to further negotiations. “The path was fixed,” Gove wrote.

This means that the adoption of the new teacher assessment system that will link student performance to teacher effectiveness will go forward this fall as planned.

Under the government’s reforms, due to come into effect from this autumn, teachers’ pay will be linked to performance in the classroom, with schools setting salaries rather than following a national framework. Changes have also been made to public sector pensions.

A Department for Education spokesman said: “We are very disappointed that the NUT and NASUWT have announced they will be taking further strike action, which less than a quarter of teachers actually voted for. Industrial action will disrupt pupils’ education, hugely inconvenience parents and damage the profession’s reputation in the eyes of the public at a time when our reforms are driving up standards across the country.

The spokesman further expressed befuddlement over the teachers’ opposition to a plan that aims to increase the pay of high-performing teachers, noting, however, that the Department for Education officials have met extensively with union representatives over these issues and will continue to do so over the coming months.