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EIS membership backs strike action over pensions

Members of Scotland's largest teaching union, the EIS, have voted nine to one in favour of taking industrial action over pension increases, should negotiations with the government fail to reach an agreement.

The union's general secretary, Larry Flanagan, described the 34 per cent turnout as "solid". Teachers had "sent a message that, hopefully, even the Scottish government cannot ignore", he said.

Members had shown "great patience" during talks with the government, he added, but given the lack of progress, teachers and lecturers were now "angry at the position the Scottish government has continued to take".

"To simply replicate the worst of the UK government's continuing attacks on public sector pensions north of the border, even when they have the freedom to negotiate a Scottish alternative in relation to the teachers' pension scheme, is unacceptable," Mr Flanagan said.

It is unlikely that any action will take place until after the summer break as discussions on the Scottish teachers' pension scheme design are scheduled to continue until the end of May, according to the EIS.

The result of the ballot came hours after the education committee voted five to four to reject a motion by Labour MSP and deputy convener, Neil Findlay, to annul the statutory regulations implementing the latest increase in contributions.

Education secretary Michael Russell told committee members that changes to pension contributions had been forced upon Scotland by the Westminster government and non-compliance would attract a fine of almost #163;100 million per year.

Opposition MSPs accused the government of using the debate to strengthen its case for Scottish independence and full taxing powers.

Teachers were being told they had to "wait until the future land of milk and honey" with "Scandinavian levels of welfare" and "Texan levels of taxation", while alternative options proposed by teaching unions were being rejected, Mr Findlay said.

julia.belgutay@tess.co.uk.

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