Half a million workers – including school teachers – are going on strike for what will be the biggest day of industrial action in more than a decade today. Teachers in England and Wales, who are members of the National Education Union (NEU), have embarked on their first day of strikes, which threaten to disrupt more than 23,000 schools. The NEU is estimating that around 85% of schools in England and Wales will be fully or partially closed on Wednesday. They join train drivers, civil servants, university lecturers, bus drivers and security guards from seven trade unions who are also walking out today.
Rail passengers face another day of travel disruption as train driver members of Aslef and the Rail, Maritime and Transport union will strike once more in a long-running dispute over pay, jobs and conditions. It comes as fresh strikes have been announced for later this month, with thousands of ambulance workers across five services in England set to take action on February 10 in a long-running dispute over pay and staffing.Downing Street has conceded that the mass strike action on Wednesday will be “very difficult” for the public.
"Majority of schools will be open" - Keegan
Gillian Keegan has said that the "majority" of the country's schools will be open today despite industrial action by the National Education Union (NEU).
Strikes are expected to affect around 23,000 schools and headteachers have been left to decide if they will open.
The Education Secretary said: "We did do a survey and we have rung round a lot of schools as well and that told us told us that the majority of schools will be open but some will have restrictions for different cohorts."
Ms Keegan said the country could not afford above-inflation pay awards.
"What is not realistic is for us to be looking at inflation or inflation-busting pay rises. We cannot risk fuelling inflation with inflation-busting pay rises. We have to look after everybody in the economy."
The NEU said: "Energy bills are soaring, inflation is at 12.3 per cent (August 2022) – a forty-year high. But the Government is suggesting experienced teachers’ pay should only go up by five per cent this year. This is a seven per cent cut."
When are the train driver strikes?
Trian driver strikes will see members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union and the Aslef union walk out today and Friday.
The train operators are: Avanti West Coast; Chiltern Railways; CrossCountry; East Midlands Railway; Gatwick Express; Great Northern; Heathrow Express; London Northwestern Railway; Northern; Southeastern; Southern; Thameslink, South Western Railway (including Island Line); TransPennine Express; West Midlands Railway.
Keegan tells teachers there is work on a "range of issues"
Education Secretary Gillian Keegan has told senior school staff and teachers that the government and unions are working through a "range of issues."
In a letter last night, she wrote: "We are working through a range of issues which includes pay, workload, flexible working, behaviour and much more."
Keegan and the government have drawn criticism from the unions in recent days and weeks.
Dr Patrick Roach, NASUWT General Secretary, said: "The Education Secretary cannot continue to procrastinate when there are sensible options that could be progressed in the interests of teachers, pupils and the government."
Teacher strikes 'could last until summer'
The NEU has warned that teacher strikes could last until summer unless a breakthrough is reached in pay negotiations.
The union claimed Education Secretary Gillian Keegan had "squandered" talks between the government and unions.
Rolling strikes until March have already been announced.
Joint NEU General Secretary Kevin Courtney told the Mirror: "We really want to resolve this before we reach the end of term but if there is no movement from Government and if members are still ready for it which I think they will be, then it could go into the summer term too."
Ms Keegan said: “It is hugely disappointing the NEU is continuing with strike action. These strikes will have a significant impact on children’s education, especially following the disruption of the past two years, and are creating huge uncertainty for parents.
Full list of strikes this week
Strikes by up to half-a-million workers across the UK in bitter disputes over pay, jobs and conditions are set to take place this week.
Teachers, train drivers, civil servants, university lecturers, bus drivers and security guards from seven trade unions will walk out on Wednesday in what will be the biggest day of industrial action in over a decade.
Nurses and ambulance staff will also follow suit on Monday, February 6 too.
The head of the TUC has said these strikes should send a clear message to the Government that it cannot continue to ignore the causes of the unrest.
Protests will also be held across the country on the same day against the Government's controversial plans for a new law on minimum service levels during strikes.