The National Union of Teachers Executive met on 17 July and unanimously agreed a timetable for a ballot on discontinuous strike action as the next steps in the pay campaign.
The ballot will start on Monday October 6th.
Campaigning materials are being produced over the holiday and the strategy will be confirmed at a special executive on Friday 5 September.
The battle over public sector pay seems likely to intensify rather than ease off in the months ahead. The Retail Price Index (RPI) reached 4.6% in June and even the government’s preferred measure, the Consumer Price Index (CPI), hit 3.8% which is up from 3.3% the previous month.
The government’s rejection of trade union appeals for a review of their pay awards over recent years has, up to now, been based on the claim that inflation is due to come down. This claim now has no credibility whatever. City economists and financial commentators were widely quoted in the press last week predicting that the (lower) CPI is likely to reach 5% by the end of the year. This at a time when public sector pay awards have been set at around 2.5%.
We got a glimpse of the way the employers argument will change in these circumstances when the School Teachers Review Body (STRB) responded to an NUT request for a review of teachers’ pay for 2008. Under the terms of the 2006-8 pay award any party can ask for a review if inflation over a 12-month period exceeds 3.25%. For the second year in a row this ‘trigger’ has been reached. Last year the Review Body agreed to ask Alan Johnson, the Secretary of State, for a remit to review our pay - but he refused. This time the Review Body decided not even to request a remit. They accepted that inflation had risen well beyond the 3.25% trigger and that this may cause the hardship claimed by the Union. They say, however, that teachers’ pay should be determined in relation not to inflation or the cost of living but the job market. According to the STRB there are no signs that problems in the labour market for teachers are sufficient to justify a review of the current pay award.
This is new departure for the STRB and demonstrates more clearly than ever the absurdity of its claims to be independent. As the NUT is the only teachers’ union opposed in principle to the review body process and in favour of restoring national negotiating rights this latest development will cause problems for the other unions, the government’s social partners, in defending their positions.
So, the conditions in September will be very favourable ones in which to be preparing members for another ballot. Under the NUT timetable the first day of strike action after the Autumn ballot would have to take place no later than 27 November.