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Unions 2000 Saturday, 22 April, 2000, 04:10 GMT 05:10 UK
Teachers support pay action
Doug McAvoy
Doug McAvoy: "Don't give the government the opportunity to bash teachers"
By Sean Coughlan at the NUT conference in Harrogate

The leader of the biggest teachers' union has called for no strike action against performance-related pay - even though a majority of his members in a union survey say they want a ballot on a national one-day strike.

Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, speaking ahead of the union's annual conference in Harrogate, said that a one-day strike would only "give the government an opportunity to bash teachers".

Instead he supported calls for a sustained, work to rule protest which would mean teachers refusing to carry out voluntary, non-teaching duties - but in a manner which would not adversely affect pupils.

A survey of the union's members found that 59% of the 52,000 respondents wanted a ballot for a one-day strike as part of a campaign against performance pay, with 86% wanting a ballot on a withdrawal of participation in "goodwill" activities in teachers' own time.

'Daft'

Setting the union's leadership on a collision course with its left-wing, Mr McAvoy said that "it would be daft" to pursue a ballot when there was not overwhelming support and that the calls for a strike were a regular slogan and chant at conference "that owed more to gestures than practical campaigns".

Rejecting the ballot proposal, Mr McAvoy said: "The government would say these aren't ordinary teachers, it's the Socialist Workers Party - and I don't want to be leading that kind of campaign."

But Mr McAvoy insisted that the union was still opposed to performance pay. The union's recent achievement in gaining of a judicial review against its implementation was evidence of the success of its approach, he said.

However, the opposition to the principle of performance pay did not mean that individual teachers should not take advantage of the extra money available.

And the union has written to 120,000 of its members explaining how they can apply for the performance awards of up to 2,000 extra a year.

Heckling

"There is no conflict in our mind between opposing performance-related pay and helping members to benefit from it," said Mr McAvoy.

In another warning to militants, the general secretary also called for "no unseemly scenes" when the School Standards Minister, Estelle Morris, speaks at the conference on Saturday.

Last year, the conference gave a rough reception to the Education Secretary, David Blunkett, with delegates heckling during his speech.

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The BBC's Mike Baker
"They will be judged by several measures"
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19 Apr 00 | Teachers Pay
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