The UK's biggest teaching union is threatening to strike over "alarmingly low" wages, as it demands for an inflation-beating pay rise for educators.
The National Education Union (NEU) has written to Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi, telling him he must show school staff they are valued by providing "undifferentiated inflation-plus pay rises for all teachers".
If a sufficient offer is not provided by the autumn term, the union says it will ballot its members on "their willingness to take industrial action".
"We will strongly be encouraging them to vote yes," the union said, "we can no longer stand by while you run education and educators into the ground".
The latest figures put UK inflation at a 40-year high of 9.1%, suggesting the union would want a pay rise above that rate.
Teaching union NASUWT has also called for a 12% pay increase for teachers this year, and said it will ballot members in England, Wales and Scotland for industrial action if its demands are not met.
It is understood ballots on teachers would not be called until Mr Zahawi responds to the conclusions of the School Teachers’ Review Body report, expected to be released at the end of the school year.
The NEU said pay cuts and high workload were hitting teacher recruitment and retention, causing “real damage” to education.
Kevin Courtney, the NEU's joint general secretary, told ITV News that the government is trying to "hold down working people's wages" at a time when pay isn't keeping pace with soaring prices.
Mr Courtney, who suggested there may be a recession on the horizon, says he wants to find a settlement, adding that he does not want to see any further disruption to education.
"There is already lots of disruption of education because we can't attract enough teachers in and we can't keep them when they arrive," he said, as he described the difficulties of teacher recruitment and retention.
"Inflation is around 11% - we think that's the very minimum, is that teacher pay shouldn't fall back any further, nor should anyone else's."
"We do not want to disrupt education, we are a way off from it. We hope that parents will support us in asking Nadhim Zahawi to make a proper pay offer that can avoid strike action."
'There is a common factor and that is the government trying to hold down working people's wages'
The NEU has criticised the government’s evidence to the School Teachers’ Review Body proposing a 3% pay increase for most teachers in England, which it said would mean a “huge” pay cut on the basis of Wednesday’s inflation figures of 9.1% on the CPI measure and 11.7% for RPI.
Responding, the education secretary said: “We have proposed the highest pay awards in a generation for new teachers – 16.7% over the next two years – alongside further pay awards for more experienced teachers and leaders.
“Young people have suffered more disruption to their education than any generation that's gone before, and it's the vital work of teachers that is helping them get back on track.
"The last thing I – or any parent - want to see is anything that would risk undoing that progress.
"We will be considering the pay recommendations from the independent pay review body in due course.”
A pay award for 2022/23 is due in November.
Deputy PM Dominic Raab suggested to ITV News that the government would allow teachers to strike, rather than give into their "excessive" pay demands.
He said it is "very important" for ministers to take a "firm line" on pay demands, because agreeing to large wage increases could drive up inflation.
"Inflation is still forecast to come down next year. It will last for longer, undermining the pay packets of the public sector workers, particularly the lowest paid, if we don’t take a disciplined approach," he added.
The rate of consumer prices index inflation rose from 9% in April to 9.1% in May, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has said.
The change was in large part driven by the increase in food prices, which added more than 0.2 percentage points to the inflation number, according to statisticians.
Last week, the Bank of England warned inflation was on track to reach 11% later this year, with gas and electricity prices continuing to soar.
“Though still at historically high levels, the annual inflation rate was little changed in May,” ONS chief economist Grant Fitzner said.
“Continued steep food price rises and record high petrol prices were offset by clothing costs rising by less than this time last year, and a drop in often fluctuating computer games prices.
“The price of goods leaving factories rose at their fastest rate in 45 years, driven by widespread food price rises, while the cost of raw materials leapt at their fastest rate on record.”
Teachers are not the only public sector profession demanding a pay rise to help them deal with the cost of living crisis- their threat of industrial action comes amid the UK-wide rail strikes which closed 80% of train services this week.
Barristers have already agreed to strike from next week in a dispute over legal aid funding.
The Criminal Bar Association (CBA), which represents barristers in England and Wales, said several days of court walkouts would begin on Monday, with action lasting weeks.
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It means that cases at which barristers are required are likely to have to be postponed, including crown court trials.
Barristers are expected to stage picket lines outside court, including at the Old Bailey in London and at crown courts in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Leeds and Manchester.
The strike action is intended to last for four weeks, beginning with walkouts on Monday June 27 and Tuesday June 28, increasing by one day each week until a five-day strike from Monday July 18 to Friday July 22.
And NHS staff are also considering walkouts.
Unison, which represents workers across the NHS, warned staff would leave if they did not receive a fair pay increase.
NHS nurses backed strikes in a vote in December 2021 but failed to secure the 50% turnout required before industrial action can take place.
Rising inflation and restraint on public sector pay has sparked fears that another ballot could be more successful, leading to a walkout among NHS staff.
Christina McAnea, Unison general secretary, said: “The government has a simple choice, either it makes a sensible pay award, investing in staff and services and reducing delays for patients, or it risks a potential dispute, growing workforce shortages and increased suffering for the sick.”