11:00am Friday 6th September 2013
By Emma Harrison
THOUSANDS of teachers in Oxfordshire are preparing to strike next month, with warnings that schools across the county could close.
The two largest teaching unions, the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) and the National Union of Teachers (NUT), plan joint industrial action on October 17.
Oxfordshire NUT has 3,000 members, with 800 in Oxford and the NASUWT has 3,020 members in the county.
Two other strikes are in the pipeline from the fire service and postal workers.
Gawain Little, 33, secretary of Oxfordshire NUT, said: “It will mean schools are likely to close or partially close for the day.
“We would expect the majority if not all schools to be affected.
“We hope that the strike will be called off. If the secretary of state doesn’t listen we are prepared to take further action in the second half of the autumn term.”
Michelle Codrinton-Rogers, NASUWT Oxford secretary, said: “It is frustrating. I teach children. I am not in this for the money.
“I want to see what is best for our children. It is about standing up for standards.”
The unions are in dispute with the Government over pay, pensions and conditions.
From September schools can link teachers’ pay to performance. While this allows them to pay good teachers more, unions fear poor schools will suffer as they cannot afford top teachers.
Performance related pay increases will come in from September 2014.
Pensions changes will see teachers work longer and pay more into pension funds, but receive less on retirement.
The county council hopes to keep schools open if the strike goes ahead. Spokesman Owen Morton said: “Individual schools will have their own plans for managing.”
Meanwhile, the Communication Workers Union will announce results of a ballot of Royal Mail and Parcelforce members on October 3.
It is battling privatisation and changes to pensions.
Following a ‘yes’ vote the union could strike as early as October 10. The union has not ruled out a Christmas strike.
Also in dispute with the Government over pensions is the Fire Brigades Union.
Members voted last week to walk out although a date has yet to be fixed.
Oxfordshire Fire Brigades Union chairman Mark Ames said: “Members have voted overwhelmingly and will walk out if talks break down.”
The FBU opposes plans to increase the retirement age of firefighters to 60, claiming the public will be at risk and that older workers could lose their jobs if they fail fitness tests.
Oxfordshire County Council’s Fire and Rescue Service has arranged emergency cover to come from Securitas.
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