Sixth form college strikes put back a month

National sixth form college strikes planned for next week have been put back a month.

Members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) had been expected to take industrial action over pay and pensions by Friday, February 14.

But the NUT announced today that a national strike would be taking place on Wednesday, March 26.

It was not clear why the strike had been put back, but the National Association of Schoolmasters and Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) is due to meet next week to decide if it will take part in next month’s demonstrations.

It comes in response to government plans to introduce performance-related pay and change working conditions and pensions.

Graham Baird, director of human resources services at the Sixth Form Colleges’ Association (SFCA), told FE Week: “On behalf of sixth form colleges the SFCA has been monitoring the NUT position on the proposed strike action.

“The announcement that the proposed strike action is now planned for March 26 rather than mid-February, at least provides additional time to allow for discussions to take place between the union and government to try to avert the proposed action.”

Schools up and down the country will also be affected by the strikes, should they go ahead.

Christine Blower, NUT general secretary, said: “[Education Secretary] Michael Gove’s persistent refusals to address our ongoing dispute over pay, pensions and conditions of service, is unnecessary and deeply damaging.

“As a result, thousands of good, experienced teachers are leaving or considering leaving the job and a teacher shortage crisis is looming with two in five teachers leaving the profession in their first five years.

“The NUT and NASUWT met with government officials in October – now more than 17 weeks ago.

“Reassurances were given that Mr Gove would talk about a wide range of matters on implementation of pay and pensions and the direction of travel and implementation on conditions.

“Subsequently, he has put obstacle after obstacle in the way of talks, showing no serious attempt to resolve — or even to discuss — the matters in dispute.”

Chris Keates, NASUWT general secretary, said: “It was deeply disappointing to teachers that, having agreed in October 2013 to a programme of talks with the NASUWT and NUT, Mr Gove did not take the opportunity to progress this, despite planned strike action for November 2013 being called off to allow progress to be made.

“The only way to resolve a dispute is for the parties directly involved to sit down to have serious discussions on the issues of concern.

“Mr Gove needs to take the window of opportunity the NASUWT has offered to him to build trust and confidence with the teaching profession and to demonstrate that he is willing to discuss their deep concerns.

“The NASUWT remains committed to securing genuine dialogue in order to resolve the current trade dispute.

“We are continuing to press Mr Gove to engage seriously in meetings focused on dispute resolution.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Parents will struggle to understand why the NUT is pressing ahead with strikes over the government’s measures to let heads pay good teachers more.

“They called for talks to avoid industrial action, we agreed to their request, and those talks will begin shortly.

“Despite this constructive engagement with their concerns, the NUT is nevertheless taking strike action that will disrupt parents’ lives, hold back children’s education and damage the reputation of the profession.”