Teachers' union summer pensions strike warning


NUT leader Christine Blower: Strike action "is absolutely the last resort"

Schools in the UK could be hit by strikes this summer term over cuts to teachers' pensions.

Members of the National Union of Teachers say they might join other public sector workers in industrial action over pensions.

The NUT and the other major classroom teachers' union, the NASUWT, are in dispute with the government over pension changes.

Ministers say reform is needed to make public sector pensions affordable.

The two teachers' unions are holding their annual conferences during the Easter bank holiday weekend.

Pensions and pay

Pensions and pay are high on their agendas, as is their opposition to changes which the government says will make it easier for heads to remove poorly-performing teachers.

Teachers and other public sector workers have been angered by recent suggestions from the government that public sector pay should reflect regional pay rates.

The two unions meeting this weekend have already taken strike action over pensions alongside other unions in walk-outs which closed about two-thirds of schools in the UK in November.

At a news conference at the NUT's conference in Torquay, union leaders said members would continue to oppose the pension changes.

They say the changes will mean teachers working longer and paying more for a smaller pension.

NUT deputy general secretary Kevin Courtney said: "When pension contributions begin to rise this April, teachers will see a cut in their take-home pay for the first time since the 1930s".

"George Osborne [the Chancellor] is talking about holding back pay in some areas until private pay catches up. That would be met with an extremely hostile reaction."

The union's general secretary, Christine Blower, suggested the union would try to avoid strikes in the exam period.

"The dispute is with Michael Gove [the education secretary]. We would not be setting out deliberately to undermine the exam season," she said.

The NASUWT moved from strike action over pensions in November to a work-to-rule.

The government says pension changes - which will see teachers' retirement age rising to 68 and an increase in their contributions - will not affect those within 10 years of retirement.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said: "This deal is as good as it gets and takes the right balance - guaranteeing teachers one of the best pensions available but keeping a lid on rising costs for the taxpayer.

"We've been in serious talks for months with unions to address their concerns and reach a final settlement.

"The cost to the taxpayer of teacher pensions is already forecast to double from £5bn in 2006 to £10bn in 2016 and will carry on rising rapidly as life expectancy continues to rocket."

She added that any decisions about regional pay would be taken so far into the future that it would be premature to talk about industrial action.

Coalition changes

Delegates at the two conferences are also set to voice their anger at a range of other government policies which are bringing many changes to schools.

Those from England will attack some of the key changes made to schools since the coalition came to power nearly two years ago.

Delegates will focus on the moves to get more schools to become academies - schools which are outside local authority control - and the creation of free schools.

Figures released on Thursday show there are now 1,776 academies open and that 40% of secondary schools now have this status with more poised to change. When the coalition came to power, there were just 200 academies.

The unions say the change is breaking up the state school system and will lead to a lack of co-ordinated planning.

Ministers say such changes will give head teachers freedom to make decisions for their pupils and drive up standards.

Teachers at the NUT will also criticise plans for England which the government says will make it easier for head teachers to remove poor teachers.

Ministers want to cut the time it can take to remove an underperforming teacher from a year to one term.

The unions say the changes are a "bully's charter" - while the government says it will simplify a bureaucratic system.

'Anger and frustration'

Sarah Ebner, who blogs on education for The Times, said such a move would be particularly important in primary schools.

She told the BBC: "People always think about GCSEs and A-levels, but in primary school you only have one teacher for a year. If that's a poor teacher your child can basically lose a year at school."

The NUT's Christine Blower said: "The problem with the changes that the government is bringing in is that the whole tone of it is extraordinarily punitive.

"It's all about catching teachers on a bad day, not doing their best. Whereas what we should be having is a supportive system that says 'We've invested money in this person, we want them to do the very best job they can.'"

NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said her union's conference would be "a referendum on the coalition government's performance so far and it will undoubtedly be found deeply wanting".

She said: "The depth of anger and frustration is evident in the motions balloted by members for debate."

"There has been no respite from the attacks on every aspect of a teacher's working life."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    As usual, some have fallen for the divide and rule tactic and are running down teachers/demanding pension cuts etc. The dispute is about a decent standard of living and retirement. At present, teachers have that - there's no reason why, in a fair society, that should change. But Cameron is intent on making society as unfair as possible. Hence the wounded cry, 'Make teachers as badly off as I am.'

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.


    If there was a universal truth on HYS it is that when someone writes "Fact" what follows is an opinion.

    It is true the UK is 'slipping', the hard question is why. One reason is that too many people do not believe education to be a useful route to success in life. Rich kids get it, but poor ones often don't. So they don't try & their parents don't push them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    Striking is so ineffective, can't those highly paid union leaders come up with something a little more original and up to date.

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    Teachers r seen 2 have better pay, pensions, etc than most not working in the public sector.

    Their job can b hard, but they are already seen to b compensated 4 that.

    The squeeze on living standards and pensions is a national issue and needs an national answer not for one group to demand others who have less to pay more, resulting in 1 group living in luxary while the other is pushed into poverty

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    ...it is hardly easy. ...teachers face verbal and many physical abuse, sometimes on a daily basis. They deal with all of society, this includes drug dealers, thieves and thugs. ...
    And don't forget the abusive and unsupportive parents, many of whom believe that their misbehaving offspring are but one step below golden angels.

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    Re 70. JamesStGeorge

    If the company you work for is so ineptly managed that it can’t afford to employ you with a reasonable salary and conditions of employment, go somewhere else or do something about it, bleating about someone that stands up for themselves will get you nowhere .

    Or do you want to finish first in the race to the bottom?

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    There are many good teachers but there are also those not so good , I think the plans for public sector pensions have to happen and will happen , when you look at whats happened in the private sector over the last 20 years it has too . However I do believe the government can help teachers teach by looking at better curriculum , less bureaucracy and ease burdens on teachers .

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    Another chance for the private sector to bash the public sector. If it's as good as most private sector commentators insist, why are they wasting time in the private sector when they could be so much better off as a teacher? Call me Dave and his cronies have successfully set one side off against the other - it's them we should be fighting, not each other.

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    "...as life expectancy continues to rocket..."


    It doesn't actually.

    It's mainly a demographic effect, because those who have already died don't count, and we've an aging population.

    I'm sick of reading this.

    What about all this wine, bacon, red meat etc. that's killing us anyway?

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    The reason why most public sector workers have reasonable pensions is because,unlike 85% in the private sector they actually pay into a scheme.

    If the government proposed increased deductions (same as a tax) on frozen salaries for lower or at best the same pensions are accepted,then it doesn't take a genius to work out that many will withdraw from the schemes which is in no ones best interests.

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    when anyone starts a job you are given terms and conditions and, if the company is any good a pension.
    that is why most people take a job
    but with the advent of this government
    well it seems that all of these things go out of the window
    unless it affects them?

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    '61. captainswing1
    For God's sake Michael Gove get the law changed and bring back the Grammar Schools and the 11+. Compared with India, China and the East in general, we are in trouble.'

    Frankly, you are an idiot. Stop reading the Daily Telegraph and their Tory mischief and get out and see what is really happening!

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    Teachers have it easy.They only work 1/2 year and when they are at school only work 25 hours a week teaching. Several hours during the school week they get a double period to go in the library, and another double period in the staff room when they can mark homework. So in fact only teach 20 hours a week. If they did a full years work then they can expect a better pension.

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    Although job security for teaching is pretty high, it is hardly easy. It is one of the professions with the highest amounf of unpaid overtime and constant interference from government. The majority of teachers face verbal and many physical abuse, sometimes on a daily basis. They deal with all of society, this includes drug dealers, thieves and thugs. It isn't always a nice easy job

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    @65 Peter Nunn

    Government has no right to suddenly demand large increases in pensions contributions from staff who have had YEARS of low pay and low pay rises, even more so at a time when people are being squeezed financially rom all directions. In real terms it represents a significant pay cut and Government knows it. Change schemes for new entrants, fine, otherwise, persecution it IS.

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    Where do the teachers think the money will come from???

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    While an admirable profession with great prospects for the employee, we must not allow ourselves to become embroiled in a race to the bottom. Reorganisation is needed, but we are suffering a shortage of teachers in some subjects.

    Tempting these people into the profession to share their expertise is difficult when the profession is consistently undermined.


  • Comment number 77.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    "The cost to the taxpayer of teacher pensions is already forecast to double from £5bn in 2006 to £10bn in 2016 and will carry on rising rapidly as life expectancy continues to rocket."


    We're more than halfway through that.

    However, because teachers will not oblige, by dropping dead shortly after retirement, they're to be punished with a pension cut.

    Can't mean anything else.

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    My wife was a teacher and my daughter is training to be a teacher, they deserve every penny they get. They have to attend University and obtain a good degree, this costs now. Then when they start teaching they work long hours including marking pupils work at weekends, they can't take holidays when they like, they can't takethe odd day off, they have to attend every day of term.


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