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Pensions attack could be straw that breaks our backs

The coalition Government has drawn the battle lines, with the privatisation of schools, a freeze on public service pay and the attacks on public service pensions.

Teachers are rightly angry about threats to their pensions. In the latest NASUWT poll 35,000 members responded, with 98 per cent expressing deep concern about the pension proposals and an overwhelming majority ready to take action when the time is right.

However, demonstrating the sound common sense of the teaching profession, members expected the current TUC-led national negotiations to be exhausted before balloting and to avoid derailing negotiations and giving ministers the excuse to impose the changes.

In "Unions gear up for strike ballot over pensions" (page 10, 13 May) you failed to mention that the NASUWT is the only teachers' union to have launched a High Court challenge over the one change the Coalition has already made to switch pensions indexing from RPI to CPI, which, if successful, will restore the value of teachers' pensions.

You also failed to mention that the NASUWT already has a mandate from members to ballot when the time is right, agreed at Conference 2010 and reaffirmed again this year.

The NASUWT and its members are under no illusions - unless the Coalition makes radical changes to its proposals, there is an inevitability to strike action. However, we have no intention of feeding the propaganda machinery of this Government by enabling it to claim that unions are not serious about negotiation.

The coalition government's proposals on pensions are not just an attack on teachers, they are an attack on all public service workers. Never before has unity of purpose across the entire trade union movement been needed to protect the workforce.

Chris Keates, General secretary, NASUWT.

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