UK: Teachers commence three-day strike

UK: Teachers commence three-day strike

Today, tens of thousands of teachers across England and Wales will begin a three-day strike in a long-running dispute over pay. The National Education Union (NEU) has said that teachers will walk out across the north of England on Tuesday, with most schools expected to either restrict access to some pupils or fully close. Education Secretary Gillian Keegan has called the strike action ‘unforgivable’, adding that children deserve to be in class, especially after the pandemic. Teacher members of the NEU are set to strike in the Midlands and eastern regions in England on Wednesday, and further walkouts will take place across Wales and the south of England on Thursday.

Picket lines will be mounted outside schools in regions including the North West and Yorkshire and the Humber on Tuesday, and rallies will be held in Manchester, Leeds, and Newcastle. The country’s largest education union has had 50,000 new sign-ups since the strikes were announced six weeks ago. Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU, estimates that “across the three days we will have 200,000 members taking strike action.”

Some parents will be forced to take leave from work, or arrange alternative childcare, as a result of the regional walkouts across three days this week. In a message to parents, Mr Courtney said, “We really do sincerely apologize for the disruption to their children’s education on our strike days, and to the disruption to their working lives and home lives. But we do believe we’re taking action with a moral purpose of trying to get the Government to invest in their children’s education.”

Last week, Ms Keegan invited the teaching unions to ‘formal talks on pay, conditions and reform’ on the condition that NEU strikes were suspended. The NEU has called on the Education Secretary to drop preconditions to talks and instead make a ‘serious’ offer on pay to avert national walkouts from taking place across England and Wales on March 15 and March 16.

On Monday evening, Ms Keegan said: ‘As a government, we have made a serious offer to the leaders of the National Education Union and Royal College of Nursing: pause this week’s strikes, get round the table and talk about pay, conditions and reforms. It is hugely disappointing the NEU has thus far refused this serious offer and has not joined the Royal College of Nursing in calling off strikes. Children deserve to be in school, and further strike action is simply unforgivable, especially after everything children have been through because of the pandemic.’

On February 1 – the first day of walkouts by NEU members – most state schools in England were forced to shut their doors to some pupils. Department for Education (DfE) data suggested that 44.7 per cent of state schools in England were open but restricting attendance and 9.3 per cent were closed. Only 17.4 per cent of secondary schools reported being fully open during the teacher strikes, compared with 52.1 per cent of primary schools. Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said, ‘It is likely that the impact will be largely similar this week.’

Teachers in the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) and NASUWT unions will also start a fresh wave of national strikes on Tuesday. Amazon workers will also strike on Tuesday as the industrial action wave continues sweeping the UK. The GMB said more than 350 staff at the fulfillment center in Coventry will take action in a pay dispute. Meanwhile, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy announced on Monday that 4,500 of its members at 56 trusts in England will strike on March 22 in a dispute over NHS pay.

»UK: Teachers commence three-day strike«

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