Unions launch joint campaign to cut teachers' workload

In June 2000, the UK's two main teaching trade unions revealed plans for a work-to-rule by teachers in a bid to reduce what the unions see as "excessive" out-of-class workloads and bureaucracy.

On 22 June 2000, the UK's two largest teaching trade unions - the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) - announced a joint campaign of industrial action over out-of-class workloads and bureaucracy. The campaign, which takes the form of a work-to-rule, was due to begin on 30 June and will continue indefinitely. The joint campaign represents a rare instance of unity between the two unions whose relationship is usually characterised by inter-union rivalry. The move follows a ballot of NASUWT members in which 94% of those voting supported taking action. The NUT is reportedly basing its action on a ballot in 1998 when members voted in favour of action to cut the amount of time spent on tasks not directly related to teaching children.

Union guidelines circulated to teachers urge them to refuse to attend more than one after-school meeting per week, to limit pupil reports to one per year with a maximum of 400 words, not to perform administrative tasks and additional work arising from new government initiatives, and to boycott trial-run school inspections. Union leaders insisted that the industrial action would not affect pupils' education but would highlight the "excessive" amount of work teachers undertake beyond their classroom duties.

The announcement of the work-to-rule coincided with the release of government figures showing that over three-quarters of the 250,000 eligible teachers had applied for an annual performance-related pay increase of GBP 2,000 under the government's controversial new scheme (UK9812169N).

At the beginning of June, it was announced that the NUT's national executive committee had decided not to hold a ballot on a one-day strike over the introduction of performance-related pay, despite the call to do so by the union's annual conference (UK0005173N). NUT general secretary Doug McAvoy said that the call for a one-day strike had been a "distraction". He said that a recent survey of union members suggested limited support for a strike on the issue, as opposed to alternative means of taking the campaign forward, and that other teachers' unions did not support a strike. Instead, the NUT intends to hold ballots on industrial action short of a strike, involving the refusal to undertake additional work arising from the performance-related pay scheme and work not required by teachers' conditions of service, following discussions with NASUWT held under the auspices of the Trades Union Congress.

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