Teaching unions shun pension deal

Chris Keates, NASUWT, explains why they want further clarification on pensions

The two largest teaching unions have called for further improvements in the government's plans to change the teachers' pension scheme.

The government is in the process of raising employee contributions and introducing less generous schemes from 2015, with later retirement dates.

Both the NUT and NASUWT have refused to agree to the most recent plan.

On Thursday, the Unite union rejected the government's proposed changes to the NHS pension scheme.

Unite threatened the possibility of further strikes this year, following huge national strikes by more than 20 public sector unions last November.

That threat of further industrial action was echoed by Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary of the NUT.

"We have a meeting of our executive committee next week, which will look at how to take the campaign forward, including a consideration of industrial action."

Opposition brewing

Both the NUT and NASUWT are still opposed to the government's plans to raise the normal retirement age in the forthcoming career average schemes in line with increases in the state pension age, eventually to age 68.

They are also opposed to the big increases in pension contributions that the government plans to push through in stages between 2012 and 2015.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, was particularly critical about the way the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, trumpeted draft agreements with most unions covering most staff in the civil service, NHS, local government and education last month.

"The process the Department for Education used to seek to reach agreement by its imposed deadline of 20 December was a debacle," Keates said.

"Unions were pressurised and threatened to sign up to a document when a final draft was not even available, and even when a document was produced as the final meeting was breaking up, overnight the wording was changed unilaterally by the department."

Both the NUT and NASUWT have now demanded further negotiations.

A spokesman for the Department for Education played down their apparent opposition.

"It's disappointing the NUT and NASUWT restated their position on last month's deal," he said.

"We've already addressed many of teachers' concerns, particularly around early retirement.

"We are now ready to have detailed, technical discussions to reach a final settlement, but have made clear that the broad deal on the table is as good as it gets," the spokesman added.

Having proclaimed in December that it had obtained outline support from most public sector unions, the government is now faced with some of the biggest unions in the NHS, civil service and education demanding further changes.

The executive of Unison, the biggest union in both the NHS and local government, will meet to consider its position on Tuesday.

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