Suffolk/Essex: Region preparing for teachers’ strikes

Graham White Graham White

Friday, September 6, 2013
1:05 PM

Just days after the start of the new academic year, teachers are preparing for a one-day strike that could bring schools to a standstill across the region.

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Members of the NUT and the NASUWT are planning a one-day strike across the East of England – which could force hundreds of thousands of pupils across Suffolk, Essex, Norfolk, and Cambridgeshire to miss a day’s schooling.

The regional strike is scheduled for October 1, and a national one-day walkout is expected to follow before Christmas.

The strike has been called in an attempt by the unions to open negotiations with the government on pay, pensions, and working conditions.

Suffolk NUT secretary Graham White said there would be major disruption if the one-day strike went ahead.

He said: “Across the region, 85% of teachers are in the two unions – in Suffolk the figure is 80%.

“Teaching is a profession and you have to be able to recruit high quality teachers – and if pay, pensions and conditions are eroded like they have been then there will be real problems.

“We know that a strike will cause problems for parents, but we don’t want that to happen and hope it can be avoided if (Education Secretary) Michael Gove agrees to talk meaningfully with us.”

Mr White said the unions had been frustrated in their attempts to talk the Education Secretary since he took office in 2010.

“He has offered to listen to us, but we were only offered half an hour and he said he would not change his mind before the talks even started so that seemed pretty pointless.”

Lisa Chambers, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for education: “This is a national argument between the unions and the government and Suffolk children should not be dragged into it.

“Many people will ask how teachers can justify going on strike over pay and workload concerns at the same time as wanting to improve educational attainment as part of our Raising the Bar programme.

“On the relatively rare occasions that teachers go on strike, we support heads and encourage them to plan ahead and aim to keep schools open wherever possible.

“We know that many teachers won’t actually want to strike and will work with heads to keep their schools running. We can also use volunteers and parents to make sure children get to go to school.

“We would certainly urge negotiation and discussion rather than strike action and hope that both parties will come to an agreement before any strike action is taken.”

Mr Gove said there was “no excuse” for strikes, and accused the union leaders of attacking teaching.

“There is no excuse for going on strike. What is the complaint that teachers have? Is it that pensions are poor?

“It has been pointed out that even after recent changes, teachers have better pensions than the majority in the public and private sectors.”

He insisted he was willing to meet with the union bosses for talks “any time, any place, anywhere, to get them to see the error of their ways.”

NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said the latest move was not a “reckless rush” to strike action.

“No one wants to be disrupting children’s education. Our experience is parents understand that if you attack teachers’ pay and conditions you are putting at risk children’s education.”

The unions accused Mr Gove of “megaphone diplomacy”, using public platforms to denounce them rather than engaging to discuss the issues.

“Since June Mr Gove has taken to going from one public platform to another using megaphone diplomacy rather than sitting down and engaging frankly”, Ms Keates said.

7 comments

  • Here we go again, fresh from a long summer break and already talking about a strike. Don't they know it's tough for most of us? It's a joke led by someone in a clown suit

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    Deep Throat

    Friday, September 6, 2013

  • I most certainly do not endorse this action as I know teachers get a great deal with plenty of time off (Oh yes they do, my Brother is a Deputy Head and does he work during the summer break? – does he hell!) and I do think Mr White is a blinkered clown, but here’s an interesting fact to be considered ... I work among the Garden retail sector and a couple of years back the trade had three key trading periods when sales exceeded expectation. They were the Spring Bank holiday, the Royal occasion and yes the teachers strike! SO GO ON LET THEM STRIKE, in fact let them strike for a WHOLE MONTH. They’re not getting paid and it’ll do the economy the power of good!

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    David White

    Friday, September 6, 2013

  • Our kids have only just gone back to school why couldnt it have dealt with in the kids school holidays why waite tell they have gone back if i dont seand my son to school i get in to trouble for him not going to school it ant the kids fought so why should the suffer when our government is given money to others but not our owne country thats worng

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    Juliet Johnstone

    Friday, September 6, 2013

  • At least there is plenty of warning. Teachers, along with all public sector employees, have seen their standard of living decline by about 12% under this government. But it doesn't look like Mr Gove is serious about negotiating, so I expect the strike to go ahead.

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    EN Heath

    Friday, September 6, 2013

  • I am surprised at Ms Chambers not understanding why teachers feel the need to strike whilst trying to improve attainment! The more you weaken pay and conditions of service within the profession, the less likely you are to get high quality applicants looking to move into the profession. It is not just between the unions and government, teachers feel strongly about the changes to their pay and conditions across the country. Please wake up and smell the coffee in the staffroom Ms Chambers, and get into some schools to see the reality of the teaching profession for yourself!

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    Provocateur

    Friday, September 6, 2013

  • Let's get some honesty into this situation. It is not the welfare of children, the quality of the education system or even concerns about the quality of applicants and the future of the teaching profession which is motivating this strike, it's good old fashioned selfish greed driven on by the left wing idealogy of the unions. These teachers going on strike are not some sort of noble martyrs, sacrifcing themselves at the altar of child welfare... they want higher pay, they want higher pensions and they want less working hours. Well don't we all?? These people are just selfish and greedy - I wonder if these people really are fit to be teachers, and whether the qualities they are displaying are really the qualities we want to pass onto our children.

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    Fat Lady Sings

    Friday, September 6, 2013

  • There is no place for unions and strikes in the modern world. It only harms the customer. There are an infinite amount of health and safety laws to protect employees so if you don't like a job, let someone else do it.

    Report this comment

    Ted Maul

    Friday, September 6, 2013

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