More strikes to come, unions warn

Protestors at the strike rally marching
Protestors at the strike rally marching
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THOUSANDS of Sheffield children stayed at home as two leading teaching unions went on strike - and warned of even more widespread chaos in the autumn.

Sheffield NUT joint branch secretary Toby Mallinson said he hoped the impact of the walkout would now persuade the Government to negotiate seriously on the issues.

“This disruption has been caused with just two of the leading unions taking action - I would expect to see others joining us in the autumn,” he said.

The other leading union, the NASUWT, has decided not to hold a ballot on industrial action while the current round of talks is continuing.

But that stance is expected to change if no agreement is reached, while the normally moderate National Union of Head Teachers is also balloting its members, many of whom are heads and senior staff in primary schools.

“If we do take action in the autumn it will be co-ordinated with the other unions and that will result in major strike action - something we would regret,” Mr Mallinson said.

NAHT spokesman Russell Hobby said his members would be voting on industrial action before the end of term because they were deeply alarmed by what the Government’s proposals for pensions would mean to the future of education.

“Many of them have sacrificed lucrative private sector salaries to dedicate themselves to teaching and learning. The pensions dispute will affect young teachers’ decisions to stay in the profession and impact on future recruitment,” he added.

Matt Percival, headteacher at the City School at Stradbroke, said three other teaching unions were currently keeping their powder dry to see what the national negotiations would bring.

“We will have to see how this pans out in terms of impact and then see what the autumn brings,” he said.

In Mosborough Short Brook Primary headteacher Anne Kerslake said her staff had received complete support from parents.

“I don’t know whether one small school in Sheffield can make a difference, but we just hope our involvement helps to achieve something,” she said.

A headteacher in the north of the city, who did not wish to be named, said he and many of his fellow heads were completely behind the teachers’ action.

“I have never known the NAHT take strike action in my time but I think that will all change in the autumn. Heads are affected by these proposals as much as anyone else and the feeling I am getting is that we want to make our anger felt loud and clear - and we hope ministers sit up and take notice.

“If we do go on strike they will not be able to argue that this is simply action being taken by the usual militants in the profession,” he added.

The Federation of Small Businesses in Sheffield labelled the strike an ‘obscene’ action that would hit the city’s economic recovery.

Neville Martin, FSB’s South Yorkshire regional development manager, said hundreds of parents had taken the day off work to look after their children as schools shut.

He said: “Public sector workers going on strike is crippling small business and preventing them doing the work they need to do.

“It is having a dire effect on the local economy and preventing small businesses creating the jobs vital for recovery.

“It is an obscene situation. People working in small businesses would love to have the kind of gold-plated pensions public sector workers get.”