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Thursday, 24 April 2014

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Cumbria's teachers only striking 'because they have to'

Union officials in Cumbria insist a planned strike is not out of choice but because teachers “feel they have to”.

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Challenge notions: Alan Rutter of the NUT

Thousands of teachers across Cumbria are set to take strike action next month, as part of a national walkout. The National Union of Teachers (NUT) has announced its members will take national strike action in England and Wales on March 26.

The NUT said it is “in pursuit of the disputes (education secretary) Michael Gove has caused with the profession around pay, pensions and conditions.”

In the run up to the strike the union said it will engage in talks and encourage its members to leaflet parents and engage with politicians.

The NUT, which has around 3,000 members in Cumbria, is expected to be joined by the NASUWT teaching union. The national executive of the NASUWT meets on Friday and will consider the next phase of industrial action.

It is understood more than 5,000 teachers in Cumbria are represented by both unions. The unions called off strike action planned for the autumn to have more talks with the Government. From September the Government is set to introduce performance related pay, opposed by the unions.

Alan Rutter, secretary of Cumbria Division of the NUT, said: “We have announced the action now because we feel parents and schools need notice. This action was scheduled for the autumn but we withdrew it because Mr Gove’s officials approached us for talks. That is all we wanted, sensible talks, but Mr Gove has messed us around and not stuck to promises for proper talks. We don’t want to strike but teachers feel they have to. Mr Gove has already attacked pensions and pay, and now he is looking at longer hours and shorter holidays, when the Government’s own figures show teachers are working 50 to 60 hours a week minimum.”

A Department for Education spokesman 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.”

Nobody at Cumbria County Council was available for comment.

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