(MENAFN- The Peninsula) Bloomberg
London: UK school leaders rejected a government pay offer and 133,000 civil servants announced plans to strike, dealing Rishi Sunak's government a blow as it seeks to draw a line under months of industrial action.
The large-scale walkout by government workers is planned for April 28, the culmination of a month of proposed industrial unrest, the PCS union said late Monday in a statement. The union also announced six days of strikes in the middle of the month by workers for the energy regulator, Ofgem.
The action was announced just before the NEU - the biggest of four education unions that's been in talks with the government - said it would recommend its members reject a new pay offer for teachers and other staff in England. Two other unions, the ASCL and NAHT, said they were considering the matter.
The twin developments pile pressure on Sunak's administration, just as it appeared to be poised to draw a line under months of industrial unrest that's hit the country's schools, railways, hospitals and postal service.
The proposed action by civil servants means there are strikes throughout April, including a five-week walkout by Passport Office staff.
"Ministers need to take notice that we're escalating our action and they need to resolve the dispute by putting money on the table,” PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said in the statement. "Our members are not backing down.”
The NEU said the government had offered a one-time, £1,000 ($1,228) payment to teachers for the current tax year, as well as a 4.3% rise for "most” teachers next year. It said it would put the offer to members in a vote, while recommending they reject it.
Joint General Secretaries Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney called the offer "insulting” in a statement.
Pay for experienced teachers has fallen by one fifth in real terms since 2010, and many are leaving the profession due to heavy workloads and long hours, according to the NEU.
Education unions had demanded a fully-funded, above-inflation pay rise for teachers and support staff. Four teaching unions had been locked in talks for over a week with government ministers and officials.
Sunak's government had looked as though it was heading toward resolving a series of industrial disputes when it entered into talks with teaching leaders ten days ago. Ministers earlier this month proposed a 5% pay rise and a one-time bonus to nurses, midwives and ambulance workers in England an offer that is still being considered by health union members. And there have also been deals to end some action by railway workers.
But talks have broken down with junior doctors, who will strike again for four days next month, threatening the worst disruption to England's struggling National Health Service since walkouts began in December.