1. Why is the NASUWT balloting its members for industrial action?

The NASUWT is a pragmatic trade union.

It is also an apolitical union and as such is committed to seeking to working constructively with all governments, regardless of their political colour.

The NASUWT has endeavoured for the last eighteen months, since the General Election, to work constructively with all governments across the UK, including attending meetings, responding in detail to formal consultations and sharing information and research findings.

We have highlight the potential and actual impact of the education policies which have been developed and are planned but despite this teachers have been subjected to relentless attacks through reforms and cuts.

For example, these attacks include:

  • a two year pay freeze;
  • proposals to force teachers to work until they are 68;
  • proposals to increase pension contributions by up to £100 per month;
  • abolition of national negotiating machinery, removing the opportunity for concerns regarding pay and conditions of service to be discussed;
  • job loss and jobs under threat as a result of cuts and curriculum change;
  • spiralling workload pressures, as a result of changes to inspection and accountability and burgeoning bureaucracy;
  • failure to ensure teachers receive their contractual entitlements.

As a result of these attacks, half of teachers are seriously considering quitting teaching altogether, two thirds feel professionally disempowered and over 97% do not believe government policies will raise standards of education.

More adverse changes are planned, therefore, there is no alternative than to ballot members for a collective dispute arising from actual and proposed changes introduced by governments which affect adversely the working conditions of NASUWT members and undermine their ability to work effectively to raise standards.

The current dispute seeks to resolve four main issues:

  • adverse changes affecting teachers’ pensions;
  • adverse changes affecting teachers’ workloads;
  • adverse changes affecting teachers’ terms and conditions (including pay and pay progression); and
  • adverse changes affecting teachers’ job security.

2. Why is now the right time to ballot for industrial action?

Many adverse changes have already taken place. More are planned, including changes to inspection, changes to performance management/appraisal, changes to the teacher’s contract, further curriculum changes and further cuts and school rationalisation which will lead to job loss.

It is planned to introduce the overwhelming majority of these changes within the current academic year. Failure to take action now will mean that government will press ahead and will claim, in the absence of action, that teachers are content with the changes.

3. Why didn’t the NASUWT ballot earlier on pensions?

The NASUWT has worked in conjunction with other unions through the TUC and followed the TUC’s co-ordinated strategy.

We consulted members extensively throughout the last year on the developments with regard to pensions. We participated fully in and sought to exhaust the pension negotiations, as members requested us to do before balloting for action.

Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of the NASUWT and the TUC, negotiations have made little progress and at the end of October the period of formal consultation on contribution increases comes to an end.

4. What can industrial action achieve?

A strong vote in favour of industrial action will send a clear message to the government that teachers are deeply unhappy with the direction of travel of policy, with the attacks and denigration they and suffering and will put the government under pressure to listen to the voice of teachers and engage in meaningful negotiations with the NASUWT on pensions, workload, pay and conditions and jobs.

The NASUWT has a track record of successful industrial action and when we have taken national action in the past we have secured major gains for members and teachers.

Determined industrial action does make a difference.

NASUWT national industrial action in the past has secured among other things a review of the national curriculum leading to the introduction of external markers for key stage tests and national negotiations on pay and conditions of service to address workload issues which led to the National Agreement which in turn resulted in improvements of the teacher’s contract, including PPA time.

5. What would resolve this dispute?

The NASUWT has written to ministers setting out what would resolve this dispute. The letters can be found on www.nasuwt.org.uk/IndustrialAction

6. In view of the economic problems the country faces, how can the NASUWT justify balloting for industrial action?

Teachers did not cause the economic crisis.

Attacking teachers, damaging their morale and motivation and reducing investment in schools is no way to secure economic recovery.

Many of the changes being made which are worsening teachers’ conditions of service and increasing workload are nothing to do with the economic crisis. In many respects the deficit is being used by the government to make a whole series of ideological changes.

In addition, the NASUWT has set out to government that there is an alternative to economic austerity, cuts to public spending and the privatisation of public services. The NASUWT ten point plan can be found on www.nasuwt.org.uk/10pointplan.

Research evidence confirms that half of teachers would quit the profession altogether if economic conditions improved. The only way to avert a recruitment and retention crisis in teaching is by investment and action by government to secure good working conditions, decent pensions and stable employment. Education is critically important to the country’s economic recovery.

7. Isn’t industrial action likely to upset parents and the public?

The NASUWT industrial action strategy is designed to be pupil, parent and public friendly – freeing teachers to do what parents and the public expects of them, focus on teaching and learning.

The NASUWT’s starting point for calling an industrial action is that we want to ensure the provision of high-quality education. The proposed action short of strike action will be pupil, parent and public friendly - nothing in the action short of strike action will damage children’s education. The action short of strike action will remove the tasks and burdens from teachers which distract them from teaching and learning.

In addition, strike action will be utilised sparingly only where it is necessary and appropriate to do so.

8. Can teachers who joined the NASUWT during the ballot, but who did not receive a ballot paper, participate in the industrial action?

Yes, provided they work for an employer covered by the dispute (see answer to Question 11 above).

9. Can teachers who join the NASUWT after the ballot has closed take part in the industrial action?

Yes, provided they work for an employer covered by the dispute (see answer to Question 11 above).

10. Is the NASUWT campaigning with other unions?

The NASUWT remains committed to working closely with other public sector unions, including other teacher unions, to protect the interests of teachers, headteachers and other public service workers.

11. Is the NASUWT balloting members just so the union can take part in the TUC national day of action on 30th November?

No. The NASUWT is balloting its members because we believe that there is a clear trade dispute with government on the imposition of a number of adverse changes affecting teachers.

The NASUWT industrial action is not only about pensions justice, but also seeks to address the concerns raised with us by members about workload, terms and conditions and job loss and job security.

Members have made it clear that they support industrial action to address these concerns.

A YES vote for strike action will enable NASUWT members to take jointly timed action with other unions for example on 30 November.

12. What will happen if there is a ‘Yes’ vote for industrial action?

On the 18th November members and employers will be notified of the ballot result and the initial industrial action members will be taking.

A majority ‘YES’ vote to both ballot questions will allow NASUWT members to take action short of strike action and any planned strike action.

The action short of strike action will focus on removing from members those tasks and burdens which are causing excessive workload which is distracting them from teaching and learning. It will also enable them to secure their contractual entitlements

Strike action would be used sparingly and only as appropriate. A successful ballot on strike action would enable members to take part in:

  • national strike action which the NASUWT may plan;
  • targeted strike action in a cluster of schools or a constituency (possibly sustained);
  • strike action in individual schools in response to any employer who may have a hostile response to the action short of strike action;
  • jointly timed action with other public service unions

This is why the NASUWT urges members to vote “YES” to BOTH ballot questions.

13. Why isn’t the Union just balloting for strike action?

The NASUWT’s starting position is that we want to use the action to support members to ensure the provision of high-quality education. The focus will therefore be on action short of strike action where the purpose is to enable teachers to work effectively to raise standards.

Action short of strike action will be pupil, parent and public friendly - nothing in the action short of strike action will damage children’s education.

Strike action is an important option to have but the NASUWT believes that it should be utilised and only when and where it is necessary and appropriate to do so.

Including action short of strike action in the NASUWT industrial action strategy allows far more flexibility and will keep parents and the public on board than just taking days of strike action.

The NASUWT has a track record second to none in taking intelligent industrial action and winning. We are confident that our strategy will achieve results.

14. Am I obliged to tell my employer that I am participating in strike action?

There is no need for you as an individual to inform your employer that you are balloting or participating in industrial action. In order to fulfil legal requirements, the Union has to provide employers with the number of NASUWT members taking industrial action within each workplace. The employer has no legal entitlement to have individual names of those taking action and the NASUWT has therefore not provided them.

Your employer may formally or informally request that you inform them in advance of the commencement of any action whether you will be taking part. You are under no legal obligation to inform your employer in advance whether you will be participating in strike action or action short of strike action. If you are approached by your employer about this you should contact the NASUWT immediately.

If you do take part in strike action and after the event the employer asks if you participated then you should answer truthfully.

15. Teachers in some schools have been told that the school does not recognise the NASUWT and therefore members cannot take part in industrial action. Is that correct?

No. Whether or not your employer recognises NASUWT is irrelevant. The dispute is with the Ministers of the Crown in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The relevant legislation confirms that a dispute with a Minister of the Crown will be treated as a dispute with the employer where the dispute relates to matters which cannot be settled without the minister exercising a power conferred on him/her by legislation. Recognition of the union does not alter this position.

16. Will extra-curricular activities undertaken by teachers on a voluntary basis be affected by the industrial action?

The NASUWT industrial action is not aimed at disrupting pupils. Therefore where members have volunteered to take extra curricular activities the action will not prevent members continuing to participate.

17. In my school teachers have been forced to participate in extra- curricular activities including extra tuition for groups of pupils and detention supervision. Will the action instruction enable those teachers to with draw from these activities?

Some members have advised the NASUWT that they have been coerced and directed to take extra curricular activities. Where members believe that this is the case in their school they can apply to the National Action Committee for the action to cover their withdrawal from these.

18. I was not included in the ballot because I was not eligible to vote. If strike action is called can I take part?

No. You must make yourself available for work as usual. If your employer decides to close the school/college in which you are working, you should ask what they want you to do on that day. You could be directed to work from home or at another appropriate location. The direction should be commensurate with your contract and job description.

NASUWT members who have not been eligible to vote should not be directed to cover the work normally undertaken by those NASUWT colleagues who are participating in industrial action.

19. I am a supply teacher, eligible to participate in the ballot. How will the industrial action affect my work?

If you work on daily supply the action will not prevent you from working normally.

If you are on a long term placement in a school covering for example a maternity leave or long term sick leave, you would be able to participate with colleagues in the action short of strike action.

Supply teachers are likely to have an increase in work as a result of teachers based in schools refusing to cover as part of the action short of strike action. Supply teachers would be able to accept such employment without being in breach of the action.

20. What rights do members have if they participate in industrial action?

Some employers may take a hostile view of industrial action. There is absolutely no reason why they should consider participation in action to be inappropriate or unprofessional.

There is a legal entitlement for teachers and other workers to be engaged in lawful industrial action. The NASUWT has taken detailed legal advice to ensure that its ballot and proposed action meets the provisions of the legislation and therefore members are protected by the lawful ballot.

If your employer makes hostile comments or seeks to put pressure on you as a result of the ballot being called then you should advise your employer that:

  • you have a legal and democratic right to ballot and take action;
  • the action is national and is nothing personal to them as an employer but is the only vehicle by which the trade dispute with the Minister of the Crown can be addressed and resolved;
  • the action is focusing on supporting teaching and learning

The NASUWT will strongly defend any members who are threatened as a result of participating in the ballot and subsequent action.

21. Will participation in strike action affect continuity of service?

Time when an employee is on strike does not affect continuity of service.

Members in some schools that have converted to academy status have been told that if they participate in strike action it will mean a break in service which will adversely affect their contractual rights under TUPE. Is that correct?

Taking a day's strike action does not constitute a break in continuous service. Rights under TUPE will not be affected.

22. Will participation in industrial action reduce the future value of a teacher’s pension?

Most employers may not withhold superannuation contributions and therefore participation in strike action may not affect future pensions.

Any employer that chooses to withhold contributions should make provision for members to make up pension and AVC deficits from their pay.

Where superannuation contributions are to be withheld, the employer must report the strike day to Teachers' Pensions as an excluded day. For each day of strike action, this would have the effect of reducing the pensionable service build up by one day.

To illustrate, the effect of this for a teacher earning £34,181 p.a. and in their final year of service under the pre-2007 Teachers’ Pension Scheme could be as follows:

Teacher who has lost ZERO days due to the strike

The calculation of the final year salary would be based on 365 days

Total salary divided by accrual rate (80) multiplied by years of service (e.g. 25 years) =

£34,181 ÷ (80 x 25) = £10,681 annual pension

Teacher who has lost ONE day due to the strike

The teacher’s final year salary would be based on 364 days

Total salary divided by accrual rate (80) multiplied by years of service (e.g. 25 years less 1 x day) =

£34,181 ÷ (80 x 24.997) = £10,680 annual pension

So the loss would be £1 per year.

However, a successful strike action in which there is a clear show of strength by members would protect the value of the pensions of all teachers, including those nearing retirement.