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British teachers to join mass strike in row over pay

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A classroom is seen at Oasis Academy South Bank, ahead of expected teacher strikes, in London, Britain, on January 27, 2023. (Photo by Reuters)

Teachers in the United Kingdom are to join a mass walkout over a decade-long pay squeeze after talks between the government and unions ended without resolution.

Teachers will strike in England and Wales on Wednesday, in what is expected to affect some 23,000 schools and potentially millions of students in the first of seven planned walkouts after a decade of meager payments in a state-funded school system.

Teaching union leaders accused Education Secretary Gillian Keegan of squandering the opportunity to avoid Wednesday's strike action as they emerged from talks at the Department for Education on Monday.

"Real-terms pay cuts and cuts in pay relativities are leading to a recruitment and retention crisis with which the education secretary so far seems incapable of getting a grip," said Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney, the joint general secretaries of the National Education Union (NEU), which is organizing the teachers' strikes.

As inflation reached double digits last year, teachers have seen a 23-percent real-terms pay cut since 2010, the NEU says.

"Training targets are routinely missed, year on year. This is having consequences for learning, with disruption every day to children's education. We can do better as a nation, for education, for our children, if we invest more. That is in the gift of this government. It should start with a fully funded, above inflation pay rise for teachers," they added.

Hundreds of thousands of other workers, including rail staff and civil servants, will also strike over pay on Wednesday, making it the UK's biggest day of strikes in several decades when measured by the range of the industries it will cover.

According to the NEU, one in four teachers leave the profession within three years of qualification, impacting the education of children.

On Tuesday, British firefighters also voted "overwhelmingly" for nationwide strikes across the UK over pay for the first time in 20 years. According to the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), firefighters delivered a decisive mandate on Monday, with 88 percent voting yes to strike action, on a 73-percent turnout.

Strikes could take place as soon as February 23 after the rejection of a five-percent pay offer, sources said. However, the FBU says it will not call action if a "significantly improved offer" is made before February 9.

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