Government begins union pension talks

Hope is that teachers here will receive a better deal than public sector workers in England

Elizabeth Buie

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The Scottish government has opened pension talks with the teacher unions, holding out the prospect of a better deal for them than public sector workers have been offered in the rest of the UK.

The meeting, attended by the EIS, the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association, NASUWT, School Leaders Scotland, Voice, the Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland, and Cosla, was chaired by the education secretary, Michael Russell.

TESS understands Mr Russell told the unions that he wants to take a different approach from the UK government, but warned that the Scottish government is constrained by costs and any alternative scheme would be subject to Treasury approval.

If there is room for negotiation in Scotland, sources suggest it is in the area of pensionable age. The UK government's proposals could see teachers having to work till 68. Unions argue that having teachers dragooned into working longer and longer will not only damage morale, but also disrupt workforce planning.

Another option might be to introduce a different level of contributions and benefits for younger teachers, since the teachers' pension scheme is likely to move from a final salary model to a career-average one.

The EIS pensions campaign argues that the UK government's proposals would mean teachers "paying more, getting less and working longer".

Talks south of the border appear to have stalled, with the coalition expected to impose a pensions agreement on public sector unions which have not already accepted its proposals.

As TESS went to press on Wednesday, the NUT union in England was due to announce whether it would go ahead with plans for a day of action. The EIS was due to announce the result of its ballot on industrial action yesterday.

Drew Morrice, EIS assistant secretary, said: "The EIS has been calling on Scottish ministers to make their position clear and is willing to explore any solution on pensions that would treat teachers in Scotland better than what is proposed by the coalition for colleagues in England and Wales."

Until there was "a clarity" about what the Scottish government was doing, the EIS was "ruling nothing out" in terms of action, he added.

The EIS's executive committee was due to meet yesterday to decide its response to the outcome of its ballot.

UK government proposals

From 1 April, 2015, all teachers to have a retirement age of 65; for those born between 6 April, 1954, and 5 April, 1960, the state pension age will be 66, rising probably to 67 by 2026, and likely to increase to 68.

On the assumption of average pay rises of 2 per cent over a 25-year period, an unpromoted teacher would see an increase in contributions of more than pound;28,000; a headteacher over pound;50,000.

Move from a final-salary scheme to a career-average scheme.

Pensions payments to be increased in line with CPI, not RPI.

Monthly salary and pension contribution

Probationer (proposed 7.0% contribution)

pound;1,786.50(annual salary pound;21,438)

Teacher: scale point 2 (proposed 7.3% contribution)

pound;2,270.25(annual salary pound;27,243)

Teacher: scale point 6 (proposed 7.6% contribution)

pound;2,850(annual salary pound;34,200)

Principal teacher: spine point 4 (proposed 8.0% contribution)

pound;3,493.75(annual salary pound;41,925)

Headdepute: spine point 10 (proposed 8.0% contribution)

pound;4,595.75(annual salary pound;55,149).

Original headline: Scottish government begins pension talks with unions

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Elizabeth Buie

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