The NUT teachers’ union will ballot its members for strike action over their below-inflation pay offer.
The offer, announced last week, would give teachers 2.45 percent this year, and 2.3 percent in 2009 and 2010. As inflation is currently 4 percent this would mean a pay cut for teachers.
Activists in the NUT are confident that they will win a yes vote in the ballot, which starts on 28 February. Across the country there is massive anger among teachers over many issues including pay.
For the last two years teachers have received a pay rise of 2.5 percent. They had hoped to get a decent pay rise this time to make up for this. The fact that they have been given a pay cut by Gordon Brown has added to a widespread feeling that teachers are undervalued by New Labour.
Recent pay rallies have reflected some of the anger that exists among teachers. Many teachers face increasing workloads, bureaucracy, testing and cutbacks in their schools, and feel that the pay offer is the final straw.
The issue of pay can bring teachers together and will have a wider impact as Brown tries to impose his pay freeze on the public sector as a whole. Further education lecturers in the UCU union, for example, are also fighting a below-inflation pay offer and are hoping to take joint action with the NUT.
Teachers are now organising to win a yes vote in the ballot. Organising joint union pay rallies and meetings in schools where the NUT is weaker will be a key part of their strategy. A yes vote could see a national strike on 24 April – the first for more than 20 years.