More strikes 'inevitable' with no sign of ending pay dispute, teaching unions warn

Crunch talks with the Education Secretary haven't proven successful. Credit: PA

The prospect of further teachers strikes is “inevitable” unless there is “tangible progress” towards an improved offer, a union has warned.

It comes after a fourth round of crunch talks with Education Secretary Gillian Keegan, which failed to result in any pay offer.

Regional walkouts by NEU members are planned for February 28, March 1 and March 2, with national strike action planned for March 15 and March 16.

With no sign of a resolution to the dispute between teaching staff and the government over pay and excessive workload, unions have warned of more industrial action to come.

Ms Keegan met the general secretaries of unions representing teachers and headteachers on Wednesday morning in a bid to prevent the upcoming walkouts.

Teachers in Wales taking part in a day of strike action earlier this month. Credit: ITV Wales

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), said Ms Keegan had a “better tone” than previous talks, but there was “no movement” from the government.

The NEU suspended a day of strike action in Wales this week while it considered a pay offer made by the Welsh government.

The union has now rejected the pay offer – where teachers were offered an extra 1.5% on this year’s 5% pay award, as well as a 1.5% one-off payment – and it has rescheduled strike action in schools across Wales for March 2.

Mr Courtney said: “Whilst there has been movement in Wales and a forecast movement in Scotland, there has been no movement at all on this year’s pay from that meeting, nor any discussion on next year’s pay.”

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan met with union leaders on Wednesday. Credit: PA

On Tuesday evening, the Scottish government made a new pay offer for teachers in Scotland – where teachers who earn up to £80,000 would be given a 6% pay boost backdated to April 2022.

They would also receive a further 5.5% from the start of the 2023 financial year, representing 11.5% over two years.

Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, said: “Given developments in Wales and Scotland in the last week, the Education Secretary has some catching up to do.

“Whilst other administrations are trying to find a way forward, the same commitment to find a settlement is now needed from ministers in Westminster.”

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Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said the prospect of further strike action by teachers is “inevitable” unless there is “tangible progress” towards an improved offer.

He said: “While the tone of today’s talks signalled a greater sense of urgency on the part of the government, we have to report that once again there is no new offer to improve the inadequate pay settlement which has sparked the ongoing dispute.”

Mr Barton added: “We cannot go on like this. Unless there is tangible progress towards an improved offer, the prospect of further strike action by NEU members is inevitable and will lead to members of our union, and other education unions, also concluding that industrial action is the only option left.

“Our consultative ballot in the autumn was in favour of moving to a formal ballot on industrial action, but we have held off from that step and tried to resolve the dispute through negotiation.

“However, there is a limit to how many times we can come out of a meeting with the Education Secretary without progress being made.”

The Department for Education (DfE) offered a 5% pay rise to most teachers for the current school year but the NEU is demanding a fully funded above-inflation pay rise for teachers.