“This Budget has a backdrop of the largest levels of industrial action in a generation…We are united in fighting together for the best for all.“Kevin Courtney, General Secretary of the National Education Union
By Kevin Courtney, NEU General Secretary
Wednesday is a big day for the country. The Government delivers its Budget and with it its priorities for spending over the next year. Unlike other years, this Budget has a backdrop of the largest levels of industrial action in a generation.
From mail, to rail and now schools and hospitals, all workers are looking for inflation-plus pay increases, and investment in services which can mitigate the cost-of-living crisis gripping workers’ pay packets.
For the National Education Union (NEU), we will be taking our second national day of strike action. This leads on from the huge pickets and demonstrations on 1 February, and a very successful set of localised regional action on 28 February to 2 March. This included the huge demonstration in Chichester that I was fortunate to join, the constituency of the current Secretary of State for Education.
Throughout this period the NEU, like our sister unions in education and health, have been clear that this action is not necessary, and that Government has the ability to scrap the failing recommendations of its review body and to propose higher and fully funded pay settlements. We are clear we want direct talks with all parties to find a resolution which safeguards education and those that work in it.
We have written 13 times to the various secretary of states for education since last July to avert strikes, to discuss the growing inflationary crisis and its impact on recruitment and retention in the profession. Our approaches to Government have been a united effort with our sister education unions ASCL, NAHT and NASUWT. Most recently this included the suggestion of talks with Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), in another effort by the union side to resolve this dispute.
Despite the Government’s failure to provide meaningful talks with education unions, this period of strike action has seen unprecedented support from the public with the latest IPSOS MORI poll putting public support for our action – and most importantly our demand, for a fully funded, inflation-plus pay increase – at 60 per cent. Our strike days have been filled with parental supporters on pickets, local demonstrations and speakers at all our campaign events, something the 15 March will replicate again.
The Westminster Government finds itself in a strange place. Scottish sister unions, through their incredible Pay Attention strike campaign have moved the Scottish Government to offer a uplift of 12.4 per cent by April 2023 and 14.6 per cent from 1 January 2024, something their members have now voted to accept.
Like Scotland, the Welsh Government has listened to the public and our members, and following meaningful negotiations between the National Education Union and the Welsh Government, a new, revised and fully-funded pay offer will be put to teacher members.
Yet from Westminster, the only update we get is twitter videos from the minister and a rejection to meet with all sister unions through the ACAS process.
Our members are incredible, their resolve is solid, and with the backing of parents we have a coalition that will win for all pupils. As our action continues we are asking all those that support our campaign to save our schools to take the following steps:
- Join the tens of thousands of parents, carers and the public supporting us here.
- Join us on 15 March as we fill Trafalgar Square together, you can sign up here.
- Share your support on social media using #SaveOurSchools.
15 March is about the future of this country, our young people and all our public services. We are united in fighting together for the best for all.
See you at Trafalgar Square.