UK

Michael Gove To Meet Teachers' Union Threatening Strike Action Over Pay And Pensions

28/03/2013 20:25 GMT

Michael Gove has agreed to meet two teaching unions planning to strike over pay and pensions, but warned the Government will not row back on its plans.

In a letter to the National Union of Teachers and the NASUWT teaching union, the Education Secretary said: "While I am happy to discuss any issue you have, I shall stress in advance that on changes to teachers' pension and pay arrangements, the direction of travel is now fixed.

"In both cases, there has been full consultation with trade unions including the NASUWT and the NUT."

michael gove

Education Secretary Michael Gove has agreed to meet two teaching unions planning to strike

NUT general secretary Christine Blower said the letter "show no intent" to engage with them on their concerns.

The unions, which together represent the vast majority of teachers in England and Wales, announced last week that they are planning a national walkout this autumn, amid a deepening row over pay, pensions and workload.

They put a list of demands to Gove, calling on him to suspend the introduction of performance-related pay, due to be brought in later this year, and to publish an evaluation of the Teachers' Pension Scheme.

They also wanted him to "commit to genuine engagement" by setting up a series of meetings to discuss the dispute.

Gove said in his letter that changes to teachers' pensions are being made as part of wider reforms to public sector pensions, while pay reforms have been recommended by the School Teachers' Review Body (STRB).

He added that he believed that the proposed changes to pay, which will see teachers' salaries linked to performance in the classroom, are a "wholly good thing".

The letter concludes: "While the reforms we need to make to both pay and pensions have been decided, following extensive evidence gathering and consultation, we want to continue to work with you and other parties on implementing the reforms.

"As part of this process, I look forward to meeting with you to discuss how we can end your dispute."

Gove's response comes as both the NUT and NASUWT prepare to meet for their annual conferences, which are expected to discuss issues such as pay and pensions.

In a joint announcement last week, the unions said they were planning a rolling programme of regional strikes, beginning in areas of the North West on June 27.

More are set to follow in the autumn term, with the stage set for a national strike before Christmas.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said at the time of the announcement that they were "very disappointed" the unions had decided to strike.

Both unions have already been taking part in industrial action, short of stoppages, but NUT's Blower insisted last week that they had had no engagement by Gove over the dispute.

She said: "We have decided we must make an announcement that we will move to strike action in a bid to get the Secretary of State to listen seriously, and to seek to achieve a resolution in this dispute."

Keates said Gove's letter was a "a blatant attempt to provoke the teaching profession ahead of their annual conferences".

She added: "This is a serious situation which requires a more measured response than this display of arrogance and belligerence from the Secretary of State.

"As far as we are concerned we remain committed to engaging in genuine discussions and our original demands still remain on the table."

Blower said: "This is an unsurprising piece of gamesmanship by Michael Gove to write to us on the eve of our conference.

"Strike action can still be avoided but the Secretary of State would have to engage seriously with us.

"This letter does not show any intent to do so."