Friday, 25 April 2008

The NUT industrial action

On Thursday, April 24th, the National Union of Teachers (NUT) members went on strike for one day, but there is the possibility of further action in the future. The reason for the strike was poor pay and conditions, however I think that this is a dubious claim and the type of action was the wrong one.

The following is a statement from the NUT website:
"Thousands of members turned out to support this day of action. It shows the NUT made the right decision to call upon its members to strike. Erosion of teachers’ pay is now firmly on the public agenda as a result. We have highlighted the case for pay which at least keeps up with the rate of inflation as measured by RPI."
So, the main point is that they feel they are not being paid enough for the work that they do. I will agree that teachers do an absurdly large amount of work and can get very stressed as a result. However, I do think they get decent wages. In this document, the following pay scales are shown:
Level E & W I. Ldn O. Ldn Fringe
M1 £20,133 £24,168 £23,118 £21,102
M2 £21,726 £25,548 £25,548 £22,692
M3 £23,472 £27,327 £26,247 £24,438
M4 £25,278 £29,328 £28,053 £26,250
M5 £27,270 £31,584 £30,432 £28,239
M6 £29,427 £33,936 £32,751 £30,393
N.B.: E&W = England and Wales, I. Ldn = Inner London, O. Ldn = Outer London

That doesn't seem too bad, even on the bottom end of the scale. It means that a relatively inexperienced teacher gets more than I do in a year. However, that is an unfair comparison as their work goes beyond 9-5. I'll compare the above rates of pay with the wages in nursing - another high pressure job with long hours:
Level Min.(£) Max.(£)
Band 1 12,182 13,253
Band 2 12,577 15,523
Band 3 14,437 17,257
Band 4 16,853 20,261
Band 5 19,683 25,424
Band 6 23,458 31,779
Band 7 28,313 37,326
Band 8A 36,112 43,335
Band 8B 42,064 52,002
Band 8C 50,616 62,402
Band 8D 60,669 75,114
Band 9 71,646 90,607
According to the NHS payscales, a teacher at the M1 level in England and Wales gets paid more than:
  • Clinical support workers (both nursing and community)
  • Clinical support workers - higher level (nursing, community and mental health)
  • Maternity care assistants
  • Nurse associate practitioners (acute, community and mental health)
  • Nursery nurse (community)
  • Midwife (entry level)
A more experienced, M6 level teacher gets more than those plus most non-management nurses. I should point out that there's a scale of pay for teachers above the one that I have shown where they get paid more and advanced skill teachers can get over £30, 000. These numbers make me think that teacers aren't the ones who are struggling.

Support for the strike
Despite this, there are groups who support the strike. The University and Colleges Union (UCU) and the National Union of Students (NUS) recently did demonstrations that called for teachers to get better pay.

Photo originally taken by Dave Lewis and can be found here.

In the Independent, there were quotes from a few supporters and they were mainly people who'd recently graduated from university and were still saddled with debt:

Carrie-Ann Taylor earns £25,000 a year and is paying back her student loan at a rate of £1,000 per month:
"That's half my income gone. I'm getting a 2.45 per cent pay award but inflation is at about 4.5 per cent. Even as an English teacher I can see that the maths doesn't work."
Catherine Tooley survived on £3,000 as a student and is paying back her loan with a rate of 4.8% interest:
""Only half that as a pay rise is a bit of an insult," she said. "I have to spend part of the summer holiday working at another job to pay back this debt I got in order to be a teacher."
I have to agree that the situations described above are tough ones. When I was studying for my degree I often heard stories of people struggling due to lack of funds. For some of them that was the case even if they had a proper budget and didn't spend their money too quickly. However, paying back their student loans won't be as difficult as it is for other people.

Other teaching unions and the government
It seems the NUT are the only union that want strike action (it's important to note that even though the UCU want better pay for teachers, their members are not on strike). The Association of Teachers and Lecturers strongly advise their members to not show support as they say the action is unlawful. The NASUWT agree with the pay offer and have no plans to strike. According to their website, when other teaching unions go on strike, it is unlawful for any NASUWT member to join them.

According to this article, all of the main political parties condemn the strike aswell. With this lack of support from a number of major bodies, their chances of getting what they want have to have been reduced.

What about the children?
  • In Liverpool, 135 schools were either closed or had to turn some pupils away. Council officials had predicted 67.
  • In Birmingham, predictions were that 75 schools would be affected; 164 closed and 84 turned some pupils away.
  • Camden, Nottinghamshire, Worcestershire, Warwick, Middlesbrough, Oxfordshire, Doncaster and Bristol all reported more schools affected by the strike.
  • In Wales, half of schools were shut or partially shut.
Those stats were in this article. The children who go to the schools in all of those areas had their education interrupted. It might only have been for a day, but that could still cause problems as it's e.g. harder to get all the required knowledge across to the pupils/students in the time that they have (that will be even more apparent if there is more strike action).

This also affects working parents. They will have to rush to find necessary childcare for the time that would normally be taken up by school. They might even have to take a day off, which will disrupt their working routines too.

Summary and Conclusion
As I have alreay mentioned, teachers have an incredibly stressful job. The media piles pressure on the curriculum that they teach and they can frequently get abuse from some of the pupils/students. They may even get criticised by parents at times. However, they do get decent pay (especially when comparing it to some people in the medical profession) and the strike action is unlawful. Any future action has the potential to harm the progress of many pupils/students. In short, I didn't support the action that took place yesterday and I won't support further action from the NUT either.

So, what do you think?

Technorati tags: NUT, Strike, Teachers, Employment


Anonymous said...

Try comparing teachers pay with doctors, who have to spend a similar amount of time training, or notice that police officers get similar pay, retire earlier and need far fewer qualifications.

Anonymous said...

Doctors train for many more years than teachers and leave university with much higher debts - therefore I don't feel it is a reasonable comparison. It is hard to sympathise with these particular teachers pay demands given the current economic climate and the fact that they were willing to disrupt the children's education so close to their crucial exams.