Ministers will treat teachers in England with contempt if they refuse to renegotiate their “miserable” salary offer, according to an education union leader who fears the government wants to “walk out” after just six days of talks.
Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT teachers’ union, said the government insisted on using expectations of very low inflation next year to justify its payment offer and was not serious about bargaining during negotiations last month.
“It was a miserable show from the government, when we’ve seen teachers’ wages erode by as much as 25% in real terms since 2011, under the watch of this government, at a time when inflation is running at more than 10%,” said Roach, who was involved in talks with Education Secretary Gillian Keegan, offering teachers an average of 4.5% next year is adding insult to injury.
So far, three education unions have overwhelmingly rejected the wage offer. In response, Keegan said the offer would be canceled and negotiations would end this year.
NASUWT members are also expected to reject the offer, by margins similar to the 90% who voted to strike earlier this year. The outcome of the consultations will be published this weekend at the union’s annual conference.
Roach revealed that he wrote to Keegan protesting her unwillingness to reopen talks before the results of the NASUWT counseling were announced.
“To find out that the government has sought to pull the rug out from under our members, before they have had a say in their opinion on the government’s offer, is a great disdain for the profession,” said Roach.
The Department for Education (DfE) said rejecting the offer of payment would “simply lead to more disruption for children and less money for teachers today”.
“After a week of good faith negotiation, the government has offered teachers a £1,000 boost plus this year’s salary increase, a commitment to reduce their workload by five hours a week, and a 4.5% basic salary increase for next year, on top of both,” the Department for Economic Development said. “Inflation and Average Earnings Growth”.
Roach said, “My view is that the government needs to recognize that its job is far from over, that the government actually should go back to the negotiating table, and look at what more can be done to secure a deal that has the support of the profession.”
“What worries me is that the government wants to get away from this,” he added.
The government restricted the negotiations to six days, leaving the unions little time to evaluate their proposals and make counter-offers.
Teaching unions have been willing to compromise, Roach said, as NASUWT is making a “very clear demand for wage recovery” in the wake of high inflation, including a 10% wage award for the 2023-24 school year.
He accused the government of being “not serious about bargaining” and said it would not understand why unions would refuse to accept claims about the cost of living next year.
When you hear suggestions that the government or ministers think expectations will lower inflation, that means prices will also decrease, what economic book does this come from? “It’s not one I’m familiar with,” said Roach.
While NASUWT delegates at its conference in Glasgow will discuss potential wage and industrial strikes in England, Roach says they have other concerns that spark local disputes but are getting less attention nationally.
“Payment is an important issue at the moment, let’s not doubt it. But also the issues of workload and working time for teachers, lack of support for teachers in the classroom, and violence and aggression from pupils. These are big issues for our members.
“When our members are voted on on these issues, week after week, by their employer, the length and breadth of the country, I think that speaks louder than words. And that will certainly be something very notable in the discussions at our conference,” said Roach.