School leaders in Wales are to be re-balloted in a bid to secure a fresh mandate for industrial action, which could include strike action.
In March, members of school leaders’ union NAHT Cymru voted to reject an offer from the Welsh government covering both 2022/23 and 2023/24 in their dispute over pay, workload and funding.
The government nevertheless awarded the 3% pay uplift offered for the current academic year, but despite its assurances this would be fully funded, concerns among NAHT members that this would not be the case have proved justified in many areas of the country.
Talks have taken place over recent weeks between NAHT, the Welsh government and local government employers. But a breakthrough has so far proved elusive, with a promised review of funding for both school budgets and pay awards still being discussed and an agreement to reduce workload still not finalised.
NAHT members have been taking action short of strike since January, when 95% of participants in NAHT’s first ballot supported this option – while a majority, 75%, also supported strike action. But this mandate expires in July, prompting the decision to run a new ballot, when both options will again be on the table.
The ballot begins next Thursday, June 1 and will run until Tuesday, 27 June.
NAHT Cymru director Laura Doel, said: “As our members feared, the fully funded pay award they were promised for the current academic year has not materialised in many areas. Some are already being forced to make cuts to their school budgets, including redundancies, and as things stand, more will have to do so from September.
“We have continued to talk to the Welsh government and employers over an agreement on funding and workload, and the pay offer itself, which remains significantly below inflation and is therefore effectively a further pay cut.
“However, we’re still waiting for acceptable proposals to be worked out and presented to us and this shows our members were absolutely right to reject the government’s offer in March.
“In the absence of tangible progress, we have no choice but to seek to renew our mandate to take industrial action up to and including strike.”
Paul Whiteman, NAHT’s general secretary, added: “It is simply unacceptable that our members are having to cut school budgets to afford even a below-inflation pay offer.
“This places additional strain on school leaders whose wellbeing is already suffering amid unsustainable levels of workload and stretched budgets, fuelling a growing staff recruitment and retention crisis.
“With the best will in the world, this inevitably harms children’s education.
“We urge the Welsh government and the Welsh Local Government Association to stop dragging their heels and come up with a fair and comprehensive package to end this dispute once and for all.”
The government’s previous offer included an additional payment of 3% for this academic year (2022/23), made up of a 1.5% consolidated award and a further 1.5% unconsolidated lump-sum. The offer also included a further pay rise of 5% from September 2023, plus an agreement on workload.
NAHT Cymru’s action short of strike, which will continue pending the outcome of the new ballot, means that union members who are employed as headteachers, deputy headteachers, assistant headteachers and middle leaders will:
- refuse to provide information regarding staff participation in industrial action,
- abstain from facilitating or arranging cover for those taking part in any action,
- refuse to facilitate any unsolicited school visits,
- refuse to participate in and/or respond to any/all consultations, surveys, projects, meetings, webinars or data requests from the LA, consortia or Welsh Government,
- refuse to take part in and/or restrictions on the availability to receive or respond to calls, emails before 9am or after 3pm,
- abstain from attending meetings after 5pm,
- and refuse to engage with Estyn beyond statutory requirements.