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Thursday, 22 March, 2001, 18:17 GMT
Action continues say teachers' unions
nigel de gruchy and doug mcavoy
Union leaders de Gruchy (left) and McAvoy will continue to liaise over action
England's biggest teaching union has said it will not suspend industrial action to hold talks over pay and conditions.

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) said it wanted clarification of a deal proposed by local authorities and the government to pay overtime to teachers who cover for sick colleagues before talks can begin.

The other union taking part in the action, the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT), has now decided against an immediate lifting of its action, so that the two unions can act in tandem.

On Wednesday, the NASUWT had said it was prepared to suspend its action in the "immediate future" to facilitate negotiations, but said it would act in concert with the NUT.

On Thursday, the General Secretary of the NASUWT, Nigel de Gruchy said: "In order to ensure continued co-ordination, the NASUWT action will remain in being so that both unions are able to suspend the action at the same time.

"Earliest opportunity"

"I believe that it is in everybody's interest to do so at the earliest opportunity in order to allow negotiations to go forward."

The NUT is demanding further clarification and assurances before its executive votes on calling off the action.

The local government employers have said they will discuss a move to pay teachers overtime of 20 an hour to cover for absent colleagues if the unions call off their action.

The Local Government Association also offered to open negotiations on drawing up new conditions of service for teachers.

At present teachers cannot be paid overtime or given time off to replace the extra hours they are asked to put in.

And the government indicated it would be willing to consider having an independent inquiry into teachers' workload - provided union action ended.

Concessions sought

Both unions want concessions before agreeing to suspend their action.

Nigel de Gruchy said he wanted assurances about long hours and workload.

On Wednesday, the General Secretary of the NUT, Doug McAvoy, had said: "The approach of the employers recognises that there is a significant problem of teacher shortages and suggests solutions."

But overtime payments could be only "a short term palliative" and their offer did not go far enough.

The government must guarantee that its proposals would not result in recommendations for overtime payments for a minority of teachers while worsening conditions of service for all, he said.

In the circumstances he could not recommend to the NUT's executive at its meeting on Thursday the immediate suspension of action "without further clarification from the employers and some assurances from the government".

Balloting goes on

The union action involves not covering for staff vacancies beyond one day for long-term vacancies - including unfilled posts - and three days for unforeseen absences such as sickness.

So far teachers in 11 local education authority areas have voted to take action.

Ballots are planned or going on in seven other areas and the unions are advising members to continue that process for the time being.

The Local Government Association's education chairman, Graham Lane, said he looked forward to "constructive discussions" on the proposals.

He hoped to resolve any outstanding issues in a way which was satisfactory to all concerned.

See also:

15 Mar 01 | Scotland
Teacher shortages predicted
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