Teachers are livid that the government last week sought to push a below-inflation pay “rise” on them – not just for one year, but for three.
It would give teachers a pay rise of 2.45 percent this year, and 2.3 percent for 2009 and 2010 – less than the 2.5 percent increase they have received for the last two years.
Newly qualified teachers in London would get slightly higher increases, but they would still be below inflation.
Steve Sinnott, general secretary of the teachers’ NUT union, responded, saying, “This settlement is in effect a pay cut.”
Teachers are now considering their response, with the NUT having previously pledged to ballot its members for strike action in the event of a pay offer below the level of inflation.
“People realise that the RPI measure of inflation is 4 percent and that the offer is nowhere near what’s needed,” said Kevin Courtney, an executive member of the NUT, who spoke to Socialist Worker in a personal capacity.
“I think that there will be a ballot and I think that teachers will vote to strike. I hope that we can also take action alongside other public sector unions.”
Jess Edwards is in her second year of teaching in Lambeth, south London. She told Socialist Worker, “This pay offer doesn’t take into account the fact that rents are going up or that food and fuel are more expensive.”
Paul Vernell, an NUT rep in Bristol, said that the mood for action in his school was “very solid indeed”.
“We are sending out letters to all our members arguing against the offer,” he told Socialist Worker.
Many teachers say the anger extends beyond pay to wider issues. There is a widespread feeling that teachers’ pay is being held down while their job becomes increasingly difficult.
“Government policy makes the job of teaching harder,” says Jess. “There is increased pressure on teachers. The poor quality of life and poverty that children are faced with just compound problems in teaching.”
The government has said that teachers’ pay could be reviewed in the future if inflation changes significantly. But similar promises have been broken in the past, and there is no way to guarantee this will not happen again.
The NUT executive meets this Thursday to discuss its response to the pay offer. A decision to ballot for strike action could lead to the first national teachers’ strike in over 20 years.
Lecturers in the UCU union have also received a below‑inflation pay offer. UCU activists are campaigning to take joint action with the NUT if it decides to strike.