Education International
Education International

UK: Historic joint agreement launched

published 29 May 2012 updated 31 May 2012

Two of the UK’s biggest trade unions have launched an historic joint agreement committing the trade unions to work together to protect teachers and defend education. The two unions, both EI affiliates, are the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT).

The joint declaration of intent, 'Protecting Teachers Defending Education', was launched on 28 May by the two unions which, between them, represent over 85 per cent of the teaching profession in England and Wales. The declaration is a considered and determined response to the damage being inflicted on education provision as a result of unnecessary policies of cuts and austerity, the public denigration of teachers and ideologically-driven reforms in UK schools.

Low morale

Teacher morale in the UK has sunk to an all-time low, with around half of all teachers in the profession saying that they are seriously considering quitting teaching altogether. According to the Government's own data, applications to initial teacher training have fallen by around one-third in the past two years. The UK is on the brink of a recruitment and retention crisis in schools which, if unchecked, would be seriously detrimental to the long-term interests and life chances of children and young people.

The sustained attacks on working conditions, pensions, pay, conditions of service and the threat to jobs are now so severe that the NASUWT and the NUT believe joint, coordinated and sustained action is essential. The campaign will involve working jointly on political lobbying, public campaigns, research and negotiation, together with a jointly coordinated programme of industrial action, including action short of strike action and strike action.

Call for discussions

NUT and NASUWT have also written to Education Secretary Michael Gove to seek urgent discussions about the enormous threats to teacher morale and the education system itself. They are calling on Gove to reach agreement with them on these vital issues before the start of the next academic year.

Should the Government refuse to negotiate sensible arrangements which protect teachers and defend education, it is the intention of the two unions to move to escalate industrial action, including jointly coordinated strike action and action short of strike action in the autumn.

Assault on pay and conditions

NASUWT General Secretary Chris Keates said: “Since the Government came into office, there has been a relentless and unprecedented assault on teachers’ pay and conditions of service. This assault on teachers is damaging standards of education. Our two unions, which represent the overwhelming majority of the teaching profession, are united in our determination to defend education by protecting teachers.”

Since coming to power, the Government has sought to undermine teachers, echoed NUT General Secretary Christine Blower. “Occasionally saying we have the best generation of teachers we’ve ever had in no way compensates for the onslaught of attacks and threats to pay, pensions and working conditions,” she said. “We need to stand together to protect our profession and the education system. It is more important than ever that we work together to achieve these goals for all our members.”

EI supports its UK affiliates in their pursuit of a shared goal of securing quality education as a right for all. It urges national authorities to engage in faithful negotiations with education unions.

Video of trade union leaders on the NUT/NASUWT joint agreement:

To read the full joint agreement, 'Protecting Teachers Defending Education', please click here

The NUT/NASUWT letter to Education Secretary Michael Gove is available here