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Monday, 9 April, 2001, 15:09 GMT 16:09 UK
Teacher unions 'to halt shortage action'
congress house
The unions met at the TUC to discuss tactics
Leaders of the two biggest classroom unions in England have finally agreed that they should suspend their industrial action over teacher shortages.

The national officers of the National Union of Teachers and the National Association of Teachers Union of Women Teachers met at the TUC and agreed to co-ordinate a suspension of their joint action.

The NUT's officers will recommend that course at a meeting of the union's national executive meeting in Cardiff on Thursday - on the eve of the union's annual conference there.

The NUT says it has "obtained sufficient clarification from the employers and the government" to make suspension possible.

Its general secretary, Doug McAvoy, said: "This decision enables the two unions to take forward their shared objective for greater protection of teachers from excessive workload.

'Important negotiations'

"The remedies found by schools and local authorities to restrict teachers' workload as a result of our action will continue.

"The way will now be clear for important negotiations with the employers and the government."

This was a chance to agree improvements which could then be put to the review body on teachers' pay this autumn.

"The government has agreed that a review of workload will take account of all aspects of teachers' deployment, the resulting workload and their effects on the recruitment and retention of teachers and the status of the profession," he said in a statement.

"This is a wonderful opportunity for all teachers in all schools in England and Wales."

'Badly needed step'

The National Association of Teachers Union of Women Teachers first agreed to suspend its action two weeks ago, in response to approaches from the local authority employers and the government - then changed its mind when the NUT did not go along with the move.

Its general secretary, Nigel de Gruchy, said: "I'm obviously pleased - it's a badly needed step in the right direction. The sooner we get talks going the better."

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said: "Such a suspension would facilitate the opening of discussions with the government about teacher workload.

"It is an encouraging development but the NUT haven't actually suspended their action yet. When they do we will be prepared to talk to them about teacher workload."

Union members have voted or are in the process of being balloted for action in more than 50 areas of England.

The action - "cover to contract" - involves not covering for absent colleagues for more than three days.

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