TEACHERS threatening to strike in Hampshire have reacted with fury after an MP told them they were lucky to have their jobs.

Responding to a union letter outlining reasons for a planned strike by teachers Desmond Swayne told them they should remember that times were hard.

“You have a job and many don’t,” he said.

The letter was written by the National Union of Teachers and distributed to members and to colleagues in other unions.

Tom Roberts, a teacher at Priestlands School in Lymington for ten years, sent it on to Mr Swayne, New Forest West MP and former Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Prime Minister, to draw his attention to the feeling among teachers.

He said he was shocked by the MP’s blunt reply.

Mr Roberts, 60, said: “I just could not believe his response. He was basically saying that we don’t matter.

“I emailed him back to ask him whether this was really what he meant to say to the people who voted him in.

“I don’t think that someone in his position should be talking to people like this and I would suggest he reviews what he has said.”

Mr Swayne goes on in his rebuke to suggest that by adopting the values of “the shop floor” teachers were undermining their profession.

That view was criticised by union leaders who described the MP’s comments as “bonkers”.

Secretary of Southampton National Union of Teachers Pete Sopowski said: “Mr Swayne would do well to remember that it was the morals of the shop floor on which the wealth of this nation were built.

“It was only by striking that the ladies of Dagenham, for example, secured equal pay for women.”

But last night Mr Swayne, who was a teacher for seven years, stood by his comments.

He told the Daily Echo: “I gave a robust response to a standard union letter which is what people can expect. It would be different if I was sent a personal handwritten letter from a constituent.

“Teachers do have relatively secure jobs and well paid jobs along with a good pension that many people do not have.

“I don’t believe that they can call themselves a profession while at the same time taking strike action.”

The two l a r g e s t unions, the NUT and the NASUWT, have threatened strike action with a rolling programme of walkouts beginning at the end of June.

They have called on Education Secretary Michael Gove to engage in negotiations and discuss their concerns over pensions and the introduction of performance related pay.

Mr Sopowski said teachers were deeply concerned about the changes in the way they would be paid as it would be falling to individual schools to decide pay rates and how the proposed new system would disadvantage those who come back to the profession after a career break.