Teachers' pay dispute sparks coalition row say Lib Dems
The Liberal Democrats say they and the Conservatives are involved in a dispute over proposed pay rises for teachers.
The Lib Dems argue that schools should have flexibility to offer individual teachers a rise of up to 2% next year.
Party sources said their partners were refusing to accept the recommendations of an independent review endorsing an increase and a settlement could be delayed until after May's election.
But a Tory spokesperson said there was no coalition disagreement on the issue.
Details of the majority of public sector pay reviews, including for the military, doctors and the prison service, could be published as early as this week.
But the Lib Dems say there is a dispute over recommendations for the main rates of pay for teachers proposed by the School Teachers Review Body (STRB).
The body is said to be recommending that the maximum award in the main pay range for teachers, currently £32,187 in England and Wales outside of London, should be allowed to increase by 2% next year, and the minimum by 1% from the current £22,023.
It is understood that Lib Dem schools minister David Laws and the Treasury chief secretary Danny Alexander want to accept the recommendations.
Pay ranges for other teaching positions would rise by 1% at the maximum and minimum levels, but the main pay rate is the key figure since it covers the majority of teachers.
Teachers received a 1% rise last year, after two years of salary freezes, in line with the general 1% pay cap across the public sector. This cap is due to be extended to next year.
But as a result of changes introduced last year, the decision on the specific pay of individual teachers is intended to be left to the schools themselves. The full increase would only be possible if it was deserved on performance.
A senior Lib Dem source said: "The Liberal Democrats are fighting tooth and nail in the coalition government to get teachers the pay settlement they deserve for next year.
"It's ridiculous and unfair of the Tories to accept the recommendations from the pay bodies in other public sector professions but not in teaching.
"It's particularly nonsensical when the recommendation won't cost the government a penny - the review body make clear this flexibility is affordable within existing pay restraint policies."
The STRB is said to have estimated that there would be no additional cost to the taxpayer of implementing their recommendations, as any pay increases awarded by individual schools would have to be met from within existing school budgets.
Lib Dem sources said the party would not agree to a lower pay settlement for teachers than is being recommended by the independent review body.
"Unless the Tories change their position, this could be left to the next government to sort out, which would be very bad news for teachers if the Conservatives win a majority".
But a Conservative spokesman flatly disputed the account, saying: "All the pay review body reports are being dealt with in the usual way. There is no coalition disagreement and the chief secretary is the lead minister on this issue."
The row comes ahead of next week's Budget, which is regarded as being the starting gun for May's general election campaign.
Chris Keates, general secretary of teachers' union NASUWT, said her organisation had argued for a "substantial above-inflation pay rise".
She said teachers' salaries had become "increasingly uncompetitive" since 2010 - a "major contributory factor in the current teacher recruitment and retention crisis".
"Many teachers didn't even get the 1% awarded in 2014 thanks to the excessive discretion schools have been given over teachers' pay," she added.
"That is the context in which the argument over 1% or 2% is apparently taking place. It doesn't even scratch the surface of what teachers have lost at the hands of this coalition."