Teacher strikes next week could be called off in ‘sign of goodwill’ ahead of pay talks

Teachers are demanding an improved pay offer (PA Wire)
Teachers are demanding an improved pay offer (PA Wire)

Teacher strikes due to be held next week could be paused if “real progress” is made in negotiations.

Union leaders will recommend walkouts on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday should be paused.

In a statement to the Government, the National Education Union said: “In a sign of goodwill, if substantive progress can be made, we are prepared to recommend a pause to strikes next week to our National Executive Committee this Saturday.”

Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney, joint general secretaries of the NEU, said: “We reiterate – we are ready to negotiate. We are prepared, should the negotiations make real progress, to pause next week’s strikes.

“But the Government has to show good faith. We ask ministers to drop its preconditions and to begin serious negotiations.”

Last night he Education Secretary Gillian Keegan wrote to teaching unions inviting them to “formal talks on pay, conditions and reform” on the condition that strike action next week is cancelled.

The Department for Education said it hopes to find a “fair and reasonable settlement” in a bid to resolve a pay dispute which threatens more walkouts in England and Wales in the coming weeks.

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

It comes as teachers could be set to see a 3.5 per cent bump in their pay packet in the 2023-24 financial year, following a recommendation to the School Teachers’ Review Body.

Cabinet Office minister Johnny Mercer says the debate around public sector pay is an “intractable problem” with “no cost-free solution”

Asked on Times Radio whether departmental submissions for 3.5 per cent pay rises for police, teachers, nurses and other workers was likely to solve the current bitter pay dispute, he said: “I think this is an intractable problem.

“If you look at what is going on in communities like I represent in Plymouth, the biggest challenge is inflation, without a shadow of a doubt. That is driving up prices across the board.

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

“If you chase that inflation with public sector pay rises, as people like the governor of the Bank of England have pointed out, you are into a never-ending circle where prices just continue to rise.

“I will always advocate for people who work in my constituency to be paid more if they work in the public sector.

“But you have to do it in a balanced way. This is not a binary argument, there is no cost-free solution.”

Mr Mercer said the “easy option would be to cede to everyone’s demands but then inflation would continue to go up and prices would continue to go up, and life gets harder”.