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'Powder dry' on pension rights

Members of the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association are being told to "keep their powder dry" and await developments as talks on raising the pension age to 65 are held between public sector unions and the Government.

The message from David Eaglesham, SSTA general secretary, to his union's annual conference in Peebles today (Friday), is: "You have unequivocally rejected the proposed changes in line with your union's advice. Sadly, the rest of the world seems much less well informed than you are.

"Thanks to the rantings of the captains of industry, transmitted by the eager media, we are now to believe that teachers and other public sector workers enjoy gold-plated pensions which are scarcely deserved as we do not create the wealth on which this country exists."

In his conference address Mr Eaglesham tells delegates that their "terms of engagement were clear" and that pension rights are an entitlement not a concession.

He adds: "Not for us the annual bonus, profit sharing, share schemes, corporate benefits, incentives, discounted services - not in the public sector. What we do have are modest or low wages and a promissory pension scheme backed by the Government and fully funded by the contributions of employee and employer. This is 'bog standard', not 'gold-plated'.

With speculation growing that the 9,000-strong SSTA is preparing to ally itself more closely with the 160,000 members of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers south of the border - possibly leading to a merger - Mr Eaglesham has put the association on alert to address the consequences of the "growing certainty of realignment" within the union movement.

While the dominant Scottish teacher union, the Educational Institute of Scotland, has sought to woo the SSTA to create a super-union, its advances have to date been spurned.

Mr Eaglesham's statement that in the past year he has "never been more struck by the need for an independent voice among Scottish secondary teachers" appears to indicate no warming on the SSTA's part towards the EIS.

Meanwhile, Alan McKenzie, the association's president, is exhorting members to "tell is as it is" when it comes to indiscipline. Mr McKenzie warns: "We have now established by dint of the palpable research of Pamela Munn that pupil behaviour has deteriorated in the last 20 years."

But he will also say it is not helpful to claim that schools are "one minute from nuclear meltdown".

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