Education & Family

Teachers support strike ballot over pensions

Teachers on strike
Image caption Teachers' unions are planning a co-ordinated strike campaign over cuts to pensions

A teachers' union has backed calls for industrial action against threats to cut public sector pensions.

The National Union of Teachers has voted for a strike ballot which could shut schools across England and Wales for one day in the summer term.

The NUT conference also called for a one day "general strike" over pensions with other public sector unions.

Ministers say they need to reduce the cost of public sector pensions, but insist changes will be fair.

"NUT conference today sent a clear message to government that teachers will not stand by as their pensions are eroded," said the union's general secretary, Christine Blower.

Joint action

Schools Minister Nick Gibb, who was jeered over pensions at the ATL conference earlier this week, has invited the heads of teachers' unions to discuss the issue.

"There is still time for the government to enter serious negotiations and avoid strike action. We've paid for our pensions and we deserve them," said Ms Blower.

The NUT conference vote means that there are now two teachers' unions planning a strike vote over pensions in the summer term, after the ATL conference also backed a strike ballot.

If teachers from both the NUT and ATL vote for a strike, almost every school in England and Wales could be hit by industrial action.

The unions are concerned that the coalition's changes to public-sector pensions will mean they pay more, work longer and receive less when they retire.

The union has also published research suggesting two-thirds of its members would be more likely to quit teaching if their pension packages were reduced.

The government is planning changes to pensions schemes in all parts of the public sector, to save £2.8bn.

It asked Lord Hutton to draw up plans for this, which it has accepted in principle.

NUT general secretary Christine Blower said teachers were angry and felt they had been tricked over their pensions.

She said if the government did not take their complaints into consideration, teachers could be the first of a wave of public sector workers to walk out in protest over the cuts.

But she had no doubt they would be followed by other staff working in the public sector if ministers did not back down.

'Affordable, sustainable'

Ahead of the vote, the union published research after consulting 7,500 of its members.

It found two-thirds would be more likely to quit the profession if the proposed changes to their pensions went ahead.

Of these, a third said they would be very likely to leave their jobs.

Nearly 70% said they saw their pension as an important part of their pay when they joined the profession.

And 60% said their pensions remained an important factor in keeping them in teaching.

Ms Blower added: "The NUT survey proves what we have been saying - the government's proposals are not just unfair and unnecessary, they will have a massive impact on the recruitment and retention to teaching."

A Department for Education spokesman said: "Lord Hutton has made it clear that change is needed.

"People are living longer - in the early 1970s life expectancy of a 60-year-old was around 18 years: now it is around 28 years.

"We will set out proposals in the autumn that are affordable, sustainable, and fair to both the public sector workforce and taxpayers."

NUT members last walked out in 2008 over pay. It was the union's first national strike in 21 years.

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