Teacher strike would be unforgivable, says Nadhim Zahawi

Thérèse Coffey, the Work and Pensions Secretary, urged rich pensioners to consider paying back the state pension rise, while Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, played down fears the policy would fuel inflation.

Mr Johnson faces a further test of his leadership in two by-elections on Thursday, as voters in Tiverton and Honiton, Devon, and Wakefield, West Yorkshire, decide whether to return Tory MPs.

Defeat in both constituencies would be seized upon by Tory rebels, who have not given up on their attempts to oust Mr Johnson, despite his victory in a confidence vote earlier this month.

As another day of strikes threaten further economic damage, officials were drawing up legislation that will repeal legal restrictions banning bosses from using agency staff to cover for striking workers.

A spokesman at the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said it would “minimise the negative and unfair impact of strikes”, adding: “Strikes in public services such as education can often mean parents have to stay at home with their children rather than go to work, or rail sector strikes stopping commuters getting to work or to other businesses.”

Kwasi Kwarteng, the Business Secretary, added that the unions were “holding the country to ransom” and said: “Repealing these 1970s-era restrictions will give businesses freedom to access fully skilled staff at speed, all while allowing people to get on with their lives uninterrupted to help keep the economy ticking.”

Officials at the Department for Education said that the new laws could play a role in minimizing disruption for pupils. Sources said that “all options are on the table”.

But the change is unlikely to come soon enough to save a summer of disruption on the rail networks, where bosses are bracing themselves for a fresh wave of strikes in two weeks after talks with the RMT broke down on Wednesday.

In a further threat to the holiday getaway, the Aslef union revealed it has balloted train drivers for action over pay at 11 major train companies across the country. The action could begin just as the schools break up.

On Wednesday Mick Lynch, general secretary of the RMT, laid blame for “wrecked” negotiations on Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, claiming that he was making it impossible for a settlement to be reached because he would not allow withdrawal of a letter threatening redundancies for 2,900 members.

In an angry retort, the Transport Secretary said that was a “total lie” and called for the RMT to “stop wasting time making false claims in the media and instead return to the negotiating table, so an agreement can be reached”.

Mr Zahawi is now facing his own battle with the unions. He said that while teachers deserved to be recognized for their efforts, pegging their salaries to inflation “with a war in Europe and supply chains recovering post-Covid is irresponsible”.

On Wednesday morning, the NEU wrote to Mr Zahawi urging him to “respond to the new economic reality of double-digit inflation and the threat this poses to teacher living standards”.

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU, urged Mr Zahawi to “commit to an inflation-plus increase for all teachers”.

The NEU’s letter came as the latest figures released by the Office for National Statistics showed that inflation has reached a 40-year high of 9.1 per cent.

A second education union, the National Union of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT), has also said it will ballot its members for industrial action if staff are not given a 12 per cent pay rise.

Both unions represent rank-and-file teachers and between them account for the vast majority of staff in schools.

A second education union, the National Union of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT), has also said it will ballot its members for industrial action if staff are not given a 12 per cent pay rise.

Both unions represent rank-and-file teachers and between them account for the vast majority of staff in schools.

The NEU has claimed that schools will face nationwide chaos if the strikes go ahead.

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