Teacher strikes: Pay talks with Government amid walkout threat ‘largely unsatisfactory’, say unions

A stock photo of a classroom (Danny Lawson/PA) (PA Archive)
A stock photo of a classroom (Danny Lawson/PA) (PA Archive)

Talks between education unions and the Government have been described as “largely unsatisfactory” and lacking “concrete progress” by unions.

Unions met with education secretary Gillian Keegan on Monday morning in a last-ditch attempt to avoid strikes by some unions.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said concerns over pay and teacher shortages “remain unresolved”.

He said: “The meeting was constructive but largely unsatisfactory in that our concerns over the long-term erosion of teacher pay and conditions, the inadequacy of this year’s pay award, and the ongoing teacher recruitment and retention crisis, remain unresolved.”

Mr Barton added: “We are expecting further talks to take place in the near future, and we sincerely hope that these issues can be resolved through discussion rather than industrial action.

“However, these talks must lead to a positive outcome.”

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Headteachers (NAHT), said there was no  “more money on offer for this year”.

Speaking to specialist title Schools Week, he said: “But clearly the desire to avoid industrial dispute has created the space for this meeting, and there’s an undertaking to engage further to try and find where we might get to.

“I’ve made an offer that I’ll clear my diary for the week to see if we can make that a reality and I’m waiting to hear further from government as to whether they’ve got an appetite for that or not.”

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan (PA)
Education Secretary Gillian Keegan (PA)

Ballots of several influential education unions, including the National Education Union (NEU), the NASUWT teachers’ union, and NAHT head teachers’ union close this week. They could lead to strike action within weeks if industrial action is voted for.

Unions have called on the government to increase this year’s pay offer, worth 5% to most teachers and below inflation.

In a statement after the talks, Dr Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney, joint general secretaries of the National Education Union, welcomed the meeting but said there had been little progress.

“There is no concrete progress but the existence of these discussions is due to the possibility of industrial action,” they said. “We have offered to clear our diaries for such talks, but we have no dates yet.”

Downing Street said it was "welcome" that a range of trade unions had entered into discussions with ministers over pay disputes but recognised there is "more work to do".

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Certainly from our perspective, we think it is welcome that unions were willing to come and have these discussions today.

“We know there is more work to do to resolve these disputes in a reasonable and affordable way.

"Certainly on our side, we will take away some of the points raised with us and hope to discuss them further."