Trade dispute with the Secretary of State for Education on pay, pensions, conditions of service, workload and job loss – progress report and next steps
Thank you for your continuing commitment to the Unionʼs ongoing national industrial action campaign.
Your support has demonstrated clearly to ministers the deep concerns of the profession and the determination of teachers to defend their rights and entitlements.
The industrial action strategy we have been following to date has been designed specifically to be sustainable for members, including financially, to be flexible and capable of escalation. Every day that you and other members have implemented the action short of strike action instructions, you have sent a message of defiance to government, whilst defending the terms and conditions of service the Secretary of State, Michael Gove, has been determined to remove.
Your support for the rolling programme of strike action, taken between June and October, demonstrated publicly, as it was intended to, the anger and frustration of teachers and highlighted that attacks on teachers are attacks on the children and young people you teach, who are entitled to be taught by qualified teachers who are recognised and rewarded as highly skilled professionals and who have working conditions which enable them to focus on teaching and learning. The thousands of teachers across the country who turned out in support of the strike, affecting over three quarters of all schools, gave lie to the Secretary of Stateʼs claim that only a small minority of teachers oppose his reforms.
This letter sets out progress made to date, the next steps and further actions you can take to continue to combat the relentless attacks on the teaching profession by the Coalition Government.
Your support for the action short of strike action and the rolling programme of strike action has secured some notable successes.
Whilst the pension reforms remain unacceptable, some improvements have been secured, including the ten year and additional safeguarding and the tiering of contributions to ensure that those who earn the least pay the least.
The action short of strike action instructions have prevented in schools across the country the erosion of PPA time, removed the burden of cover from thousands of teachers, tackled excessive surveillance and monitoring masquerading as classroom observation and assisted in combating excessive workload, particularly the workload generated by Ofsted inspection.
Schools, including many academy chains, now have in place performance management policies which comply with the provisions of the NASUWT and NUT joint performance management checklist and policy, protecting teachers from punitive policies designed to create barriers to, rather than support, teachersʼ development and pay progression.
On 1 September 2013 changes were introduced to the national pay system to give unlimited discretion to schools over teachersʼ pay. The changes were designed to ensure that however hard a teacher works, however highly they perform, they would have no guarantee of pay progression or a pay uplift. However, the escalation of the action short of strike action instructions, to include a specific instruction on pay policies, is combating successfully, with the support of members, the introduction of such punitive pay policies and more and more employers and schools are adopting policies compliant with the NASUWT and NUT joint policy.
Dispute resolution talks
Your sustained and escalating industrial action forced Michael Gove, last term, to face up to the depth of anger and frustration he has generated across the profession and he finally offered to engage in dispute resolution talks with the NASUWT and NUT. In response, we withdrew last termʼs planned national day of strike action across England and Wales to provide him with a window of opportunity in which progress towards dispute resolution could be made.
After an initial meeting with the NASUWT and NUT in October to discuss what a programme of talks might look like, three weeks later the Secretary of State finally made contact and it was clear he had returned to reckless game playing and trivialising the deep concerns of teachers.
In a letter to the NASUWT and NUT, the Secretary of State changed the basis on which he had originally been prepared to meet, offering instead a ʻprogramme of talksʼ, but only on implementation of his policy and on agenda items he had chosen. In addition, he had extended the invitation to these talks, not only to other unions not in dispute, but also to EDAPT, a union-busting insurance company he has endorsed publicly as an alternative to teacher unions.
The Secretary of State then proceeded to seek to mislead Parliament and the public and to provoke the NASUWT and NUT by claiming falsely that it was the NASUWT and NUT who were refusing to engage in talks.
The NASUWT and NUT have continued to make clear in writing and in a meeting with DfE officials and with the Secretary of State that we have been and are always prepared to attend meetings he calls on matters affecting our members, but that such meetings are not a substitute for separate talks needed to resolve the NASUWT and NUTʼs trade disputes, and are unlikely to prevent further escalation of industrial action. We have also made clear the unacceptability of the inclusion of EDAPT in any discussions. All other unions have supported our position on EDAPT and on the need for the Secretary of State to engage in separate talks with the NASUWT and NUT about our dispute.
In the face of the Secretary of Stateʼs unreasonable and provocative behaviour, the NASUWT and NUT have maintained their reasonable stance and have now asked the TUC to intervene to seek to secure separate talks with Michael Gove on our trade disputes. A meeting is due to take place between TUC General Secretary Frances OʼGrady and Michael Gove.
The next steps
The NASUWT will continue to do all it can to seek resolution through negotiation and discussion, but members must recognise that the dispute is reaching a critical phase.
+ Discussions are underway on teachersʼ pension contributions, scheme design and benefits post 2015.
+ Last month the School Teachersʼ Review Body was given a remit by the Secretary of State designed to limit teachersʼ pay for 2014/15 to 1%, compounding the significant pay cut which teachers have already faced as a result of the derisory 1% awarded in September 2013 and the two-year pay freeze which preceded it.
+ The School Teachersʼ Review Body has been asked to report by 14 January 2014 to Michael Gove, responding to his proposals to remove teachersʼ contractual entitlements, including PPA time and right not to cover, to extend the teachersʼ working day, to extend the teachersʼ working year, leaving holiday entitlement to be determined by individual schools, and to replace teaching and learning, and possibly SEN, allowances with temporary or one-off payments made at a headteacherʼs discretion. The full proposals and the NASUWTʼs response can be found at http://www.nasuwt.org.uk/STRBEvidence.
The NASUWT action short of strike action instructions (www.nasuwt.org.uk/IndustrialAction) already in place are designed to defend and secure all the key elements of teachersʼ contractual provisions which are now under attack. If you value these contractual entitlements, wish to retain them and to prevent a serious worsening of your conditions of service, then all of the action short of strike action instructions must be implemented fully in your school. It now really is a case of use these provisions or lose them.
The outcome of the School Teachersʼ Review Body Report on conditions of service this term, Michael Goveʼs response to its recommendations, and his willingness to engage in discussions to resolve our dispute, will be key issues in informing the next phase of the industrial action strategy, including in determining any escalation of the action short of strike action and further strike action.
Members will be kept informed fully of developments but I am sure that you will recognise that maintaining the pressure through implementing fully the current action instructions and being prepared for the escalation of industrial action is vital to demonstrating your opposition to the attacks being made on the teaching profession.
In addition to taking the industrial action, you can also maintain pressure on the Secretary of State by:
• contacting your MP – use the facility on the NASUWT website to make direct contact http://www.nasuwt.org.uk/ContactYourMP;
• distributing to family, friends, colleagues, members of the public the information the NASUWT has produced http://www.nasuwt.org.uk/EnglandAction;
• using social media – follow the NASUWT on Twitter (retweet the messages) and on Facebook.
This was never going to be a dispute which could be resolved speedily, but with your continuing solidarity and support we will continue our defence of the profession and secure a positive outcome to the national trade dispute.
Thank you once again.
Chris Keates (Ms)
General Secretary NASUWT
The largest teachers’ union in the UK