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EIS decides to wait for pension solution before balloting

Scotland's largest teaching union, the EIS, has pulled back from the brink of balloting its members over possible industrial action on pension reforms.

Its executive committee, which met at the weekend, agreed to give the Scottish government more time to come up with a better solution for Scotland.

With finance secretary John Swinney due to publish his draft budget yesterday, it was hoped he would produce extra cash to offset the additional contributions due from teachers from next year.

But the publication last week of the UK government's public service pension bill, which links the retirement age to the state pension age and would require teachers to work until 68, or even later, has raised fears that time is running out for a Scottish solution.

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan warned that Scottish teachers would not accept the proposals "meekly".

"Teaching is an extremely demanding profession, both physically and mentally, and it is simply inconceivable that teachers should remain in charge of classes of up to 33 pupils until they are almost 70 years of age," he said.

The bill would mean that anyone retiring at the age of 65, rather than the state pension age of 68, would take an actuarial "hit" of 3 per cent per year - a substantial reduction. Scottish unions want the Scottish government to put in additional money to offset that "hit", but it is by no means clear if the Scottish government can afford - or has the legal scope - to do so.

Drew Morrice, assistant secretary of the EIS, said: "We are maintaining a watching brief. But there is a concern that the pensions bill will have precluded any scope to do something significantly different in Scotland to allow people to retire at 65 without a significant financial hit."

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