Teachers warned the government on Monday they would ballot for national strikes if Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude went ahead with specific proposals from the Budget including regional pay.
Flustered Schools Minister Nick Gibb told the Star last week the proposal sought to stop the public sector from "stifling" private-sector growth and delegates to the NUT conference appeared to have got the message.
Oxfordshire delegate Gawain Little said regional pay was not just about driving down wages or a push to performance-related pay - it was "inextricably linked" to pension reforms and the broader privatisation agenda.
"This government is aiming for nothing less than the complete privatisation of our state schools."
Only by reaching out beyond the teachers' unions to local campaigning alliances could they hope to put a stop to such schemes, he said.
Gateshead delegate Tony Dowling went even further.
"If we can't defend national pay and structures, then the whole trade union movement becomes redundant.
"We need a national strike - not just our union, not just the teachers' unions, but the unions in general," he said.
Jane Bassett said the push for performance-related pay showed the Con-Dems' "Cabinet of millionaires" had failed to understand how teachers worked.
Teaching was a collegiate job, she said, where staff worked together in the interests of individual students not competing for commissions.
"We want to earn a decent amout of money, but we also want to teach our children.
"I don't think they understand that."
General secretary Christine Blower said members - including head teachers - were "only too well aware" of the problems of striking their own pay deals.
"Not only would it take an inordinate amount of time, local pay bargaining in some 25,000 separate schools would create unnecessary bureaucracy, complexity, cost and potential inequity."
Teachers were already struggling even without the scheme's overt pay cuts, she said. They were in the midst of a two-year public-sector pay freeze, while inflation had long outstripped their pay rises.
And beginning this month the forced rise in pension contributions would cut take-home pay even further, compounding the problem, she said.
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