Tuesday 20 February 2018

Headteachers in North, England and Wales to vote on strike

Alan Jones

THE UNION representing headteachers is to hold its first ever strike ballot in the bitter row over public sector pensions.

Members of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) will vote from September 29 on whether to strike for the first time in the union's 114-year history.

The ballot result is due on November 9, a few weeks before the TUC's day of action in protest at the British Government's controversial plans to increase pension contributions for millions of public sector workers.

The union represents 28,500 headteachers, as well as deputy and assistant heads, in schools across Wales, England and Northern Ireland.

The result of the ballot will be known in time for the NAHT to call a strike on November 30 if there is a yes vote.

Several unions, representing a range of public sector employees from council and health workers to teachers and school heads, are now preparing to hold ballots for industrial action ahead of the November 30 day of action, with the aim of coordinating stoppages.

The NAHT announcement came ahead of fresh talks today between union leaders and the Government over the pensions row.

A Cabinet Office spokesman said: "We are totally committed to genuine engagement with the unions. We have a lot to talk about and there are proposals on the table for discussion.

"Central discussions have been going on for several months, and the Government is committed to working with the unions to achieve necessary reforms.

"It is extremely disappointing that the TUC is calling on union members to lose a day's pay and go on strike while serious talks are still ongoing. This is a genuine and meaningful dialogue, which includes discussions about how to implement the changes on contributions set out in the spending review.

"The Government is committed to this dialogue in order to agree a way forward. However, the unions also need to commit to genuine engagement and make constructive proposals."

A TUC spokesman said: "We are determined to do our best to end this dispute through negotiation. But, despite many hours of talks, we have had little or no movement from ministers on the substantive issues.

"We hope that the obvious growing anger of staff across the public sector will help persuade the Government that they need to not just talk but start to seek agreement."

Asked to condemn the strikes in an interview with New Statesman magazine, Labour leader Ed Miliband said: "I'm not going to get into hypotheticals about strikes that may or may not happen.

"What I'm going to do is say Government has a responsibility to properly negotiate and they're not doing it and they've got to do it. The unions have to make their own judgment about what they do.

"I've got to make a judgment about whether industrial action is justified or whether it's unjustified ... we're not at November 30.

"I'll take a judgment about that if we get to that."

Conservative Party co-chairman Baroness Warsi said: "Ed Miliband's weakness is fast becoming his hallmark.

"He abandoned promises to weaken union influence over Labour policy.

"Now he refuses to condemn unjustified strike action, despite the reasonable pension proposals that are still open to negotiation.

"He is clearly in the pockets of the union paymasters who arranged his election and bankroll his party."

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