'Crazy' change will put off new recruits

25th March 2005 at 00:00
Stephen Lucas finds staff in a militant mood over plans to raise the pension age from 60 to 65.

They may not have to work until they are 65 but Keith Holyman and three fellow teachers are prepared to lose money and strike for the sake of their younger colleagues.

Mr Holyman, a technology teacher at Hummersknott school, Darlington, Derek Ward, head of ICT, Isabel Watkin, head of biology, and John Bowes, head of technology, are in their 50s.

All voted to strike on their National Union of Teachers' ballot forms, though the action has now been called off (see above). "We can retire at 60, but this is worth losing money for because it is the right thing to do," said Mr Holyman. "Teaching is a young person's profession now. Pupils increasingly do not want to listen to you.

"The young teachers can get more from the pupils. So we are prepared to go on strike for them."

Mr Holyman, who is the language college's NUT representative, will have left teaching by 2013 when the proposed new retirement age comes in.

"Changing the pension age is going to be unfair on others," he said. "I do not know anyone who is happy about it. It is wrong."

Tracey Windle, a special-needs nursery nurse, would strike over pension reforms - and is confident that parents and her headteacher would back her.

Miss Windle, who works five half-days a week at Hedworthfield primary in Jarrow, South Tyneside, said: "I am only 32, so I have a long way to go in my career but I feel very hostile about this.

"The Government could change the pension age again. Am I going to end up working until I am 75?"

Miss Windle, who has been a nursery nurse for 14 years, is membership officer for South Tyneside local government branch of Unison.

"Going out on strike is a last resort, but I am horrified that the Government thinks it can change the retirement age."

"We do a hard job looking after children. It is very stressful working in a class of 30. One of the few perks was being able to retire at 60. Teachers and support staff are going to be ill if they are forced to work until 65."

Miss Windle is sure she has the support of Teresa Lawton, Hedworthfield headteacher, and parents whose children would be affected by a strike.

"My head has been very supportive," she said. "If I went on strike parents would have to stay at home with their children or make alternative arrangements. But I think a lot of parents are supportive of us. Certainly there are parents in the authority prepared to go on strike themselves."

Angela Wells believes that government plans to make her work till she is 65 will cost her tens of thousands.

The 28-year-old teacher at Duncombe primary, Islington, where 12 of the 15 teachers are in their 20s or early 30s, said: "I can't believe it. Young teachers are going to be especially hard-hit."

The Year 3 teacher has two management points for science and humanities, and has seen her salary increase from pound;18,000 to pound;31,000 since she began teaching four years ago.

"I have been impressed with how my salary has gone up. I am on the same pay as other graduates my age. I was praising the Government, but now it seems to be giving with one hand and taking away with the other."

Miss Wells is prepared to strike over pension changes. "Most people at Duncombe do not want to go on strike because we are here to educate the children. But with pensions it is something you really have to think about, even if it is a long way in the future."

She believes the pension reforms will hit recruitment. "It is crazy. It is going to discourage teachers from entering the profession. More experienced teachers will be thinking 'Should I leave?'. It is bad news all round."

Robbie Faulds is fed up with the potshots political parties take at the Civil Service - and the pension plans are the last straw.

The 32-year-old is a policy manager for the Department for Education and Skills in Sheffield, and is ready to strike over the changes.

He is a member of the Public and Commercial Services union and said: "The civil service is made up of a lot of low-paid workers and one reason we stay in is its reputation for paying a solid pension.

"Those with experience and skills are more likely to jump ship now and those with less experience will put up with the lower pension. It means it will be more difficult to recruit and retain experienced staff."

Mr Faulds has been a civil servant for 10 years and worked in the Department for Work and Pensions before joining the DfES 17 months ago.

He does not bear a grudge against the senior civil servants, represented by the First Division Association, who helped to draft the pension reforms.

"They are civil servants like us," said Mr Faulds. "They have to do the bidding of the Government. They are just doing their job."

He said: "I signed up for the Civil Service knowing full well that in your day-to-day work your personal feelings do not come into your work, but this is disheartening. Employees are not being treated well."

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