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Pension contribution plans cause divide

Proposals for tiered payments split heads' and teachers' unions

Proposals for tiered payments split heads' and teachers' unions

A split has emerged between Scottish headteachers and the main teaching unions over proposed changes to pension contributions.

School Leaders Scotland and the Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland, representing secondary and primary heads respectively, have both come out in opposition to Scottish government plans to follow the Westminster government's example and introduce tiered contributions this year.

The headteacher bodies warn that requiring school leaders to make a proportionately greater contribution than unpromoted teachers could lead to a shortage of school leaders in future.

"Diminishing the rewards for taking on additional responsibilities does nothing to encourage the brightest and best in the profession to seek leadership posts," said Ken Cunningham, SLS general secretary, this week. From April, most deputes and heads in Scottish secondary schools would see pension contribution increases of between #163;1,082 and #163;1,634 per annum for no increase in pension.

"This equates to a take-home pay reduction of between #163;90 and #163;136 per month," he said.

Greg Dempster, AHDS general secretary, added that significant numbers of heads and deputes, earning more than #163;50,000, would also be hit by a partial or complete loss of child benefit - about #163;87 per month for one child, #163;145 per month for two or #163;200 for three children.

But both the EIS and Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association said they were in favour of tiered contributions. Their priority was to protect teachers moving through maingrade salaries as those in the early stages of their careers were the most likely to opt out of a pension scheme.

On this year's pay increase, the teachers' side in the Scottish Negotiation Committee for Teachers has issued what it describes as a "narrative" rather than a specific pay claim.

It rejects the 1 per cent pay increase for next year offered by local authority employers Cosla and instead cites research commissioned by the EIS calling for the salary values of the 2001 "McCrone" deal to be restored.

The research suggests that compared with 2003, teachers in 2012 were either 6.5 per cent (if using the consumer price index) or 12 per cent (under the retail price index) worse off in terms of their real wages.

The teachers' pay claim also calls on the SNCT to restore the pay, hours of work and duties of supply teachers and points out that teachers were required to make additional pension contributions in 2012-13 ranging from 0.6 - 2.4 per cent.

The employers' pay offer comes in two parts: a 1 per cent pay increase from 1 April, 2013, in a one-year settlement; and a pay award in 2014-15 while teaching unions look at "more flexible and adaptable working practices in the provision of education services".

Drew Morrice, the teachers' side secretary in the negotiations, told TESS it was unclear whether the Cosla demand for more flexible working practices was a pre-condition to a pay deal.

The SNCT is due to meet next week for pay talks.

elizabeth.buie@tess.co.uk

NO MASS DEFECTION, BUT A DEFINITE CHANGE IN MEMBERSHIP

The threatened mass defections from Scotland's biggest teaching union over last year's controversial pay and conditions deal never happened - although other unions have reported an increase in numbers.

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan told TESS that, while numbers did fall in the wake of the spring 2011 deal, they have recovered to around their previous level.

"We don't release precise membership figures, as we regard these as confidential," said an EIS spokesman. "However, our overall membership level has remained stable at about 80 per cent of Scotland's teachers and lecturers, despite any claims elsewhere to the contrary.

"We have also recently seen an increase in applications to a new six-year high but clearly the cut in teacher numbers and further education lecturer posts had a disproportionate impact on us as we are the only union active in all sectors: pre-five, primary, secondary, special, FE and higher education."

Other unions were highly critical of the EIS last year - as were many EIS members - as they felt it had not fought hard enough for teachers' rights, particularly over reduced salaries for supply teachers.

Alan McKenzie, acting general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association, insisted that this disaffection had translated into new recruits, with membership rising to just over 9,305. Some 340 members had been gained in the past year.

Similarly, NASUWT Scotland organiser Jane Peckham told TESS that close to 1,000 members had been gained, taking its membership to over 7,000. She said the new recruits had been attracted by her union's "action short of strike".

But the Scottish Primary Teachers' Association, set up to receive primary teachers who wanted to leave the EIS, folded in September, according to its Facebook page.

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