by Nina Knowles
Welsh members of the NEU were due to go on strike alongside members in England last week. The strikes in Wales were called off while NEU members considered a revised pay offer. The National Education union and the Welsh government had engaged in relatively constructive talks to resolve the ongoing pay dispute. A previous offer, which resulted in the postponement of a strike on 14 February, was rejected.
The revised offer includes an additional 3% pay award for 2022/23: 1.5% consolidated and 1.5% non-consolidated. A fully funded 2023/24 pay award effective from 1 September 2023 is recommended to be increased to 5%. Included in the offer is a no detriment principle, so that the pay award in Wales would be matched to that in England, should teachers in England receive a higher pay settlement. Taken over two years for teachers on all spine points, the pay offer is worth 11.8% consolidated, plus the 1.5% non-consolidated payment.
Strike action has forced the Welsh Government to fund this pay offer, however nothing more has been won from Westminster. There is also the very real possibility that if teachers in Wales settle for this two year pay cut, it will set a benchmark for the maximum pay offer that the Tories will offer to teachers in England.
This looks all the more likely, in the wake of the Spring 2023 budget, which shows a further 21.6bn in unannounced cuts to public services by 2027/28, compared to the level of real terms spending announced by Jeremy Hunt. According to the New Economics Foundation (NEF) the hidden cut is a result of the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) assuming inflation will fall well below the Bank of England’s target of 2% from 2024/25, including zero inflation in 2025/26.
Further research by the NEF showed that the implied offer of an 8.7% pay offer on average for public sector workers between 2022 and 2024 amounts to a real terms pay cut of 8%. Failing to protect public sector pay in line with inflation would hit Wales, Scotland and the North East by twice as much as London. The Department for Education would see its real spending power fall by 3.8bn. All of this while Hunt hands the top 1% of earners a large giveaway so as to tempt them into working a few more years, while tightening sanctions for those on benefits.
For Welsh teachers, a pay offer of 11.8% doesn’t even match inflation for one year. With RPI inflation still forecast to be around 10% for the rest of 2023, accepting the deal means accepting not just one year but two more years of real term pay cuts.
Following a breakthrough on the NHS dispute, the National Education Union, the National Association of Headteachers, NASUWT and ASCL will undergo “intensive talks” with the government on pay. Key sticking points, such as workload and exams are yet to be addressed, as well as whether or not schools will have to cough up for any proposed pay offers.
Working conditions for teachers are learning conditions for students. The Workers Party stands in solidarity with all teachers who are fighting for the fair and fully funded pay deal and working conditions they deserve, so they can get back to doing what they do best: delivering the education the next generation needs, and to help build a better future for those in their care.
For updates on the teacher strikes watch NEU on YouTube: