Pension win 'a life-saver'

21st October 2005 at 01:00
Teachers presently in the classroom will be able after all to relax in their armchairs at 60 on a full pension after UK ministers caved in under union pressure. Actuarial charts show it will help teachers avoid an early grave.

The Government had sought to raise the retirement age to 65 to control the pensions funding crisis but this week conceded that teachers, health service workers and civil servants can retire in line with their existing contracts.

Unions across Britain, including the Educational Institute of Scotland and the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association, had mounted a concerted campaign against the reforms, including the threat of industrial action.

Existing pension scheme members will have their rights protected, but from next September new entrants will have to work to 65 to earn a full pension.

A two-tier workforce will emerge.

Both the EIS and SSTA hailed the U-turn as "a victory for common sense".

Jim Docherty, SSTA assistant secretary, described the Government's original proposals as "either legalised theft or murder".

Mr Docherty said: "We do know from the actuarial tables that, for every year a teacher works past the age of 60, they die a year earlier than those who retire at 60. So teachers who retire at 65 on average die five years earlier."

Ken Wimbor, EIS assistant secretary, said ministers had accepted the argument that it was unfair on existing public sector workers to change their entitlements. But the Government none the less had managed to lift the retirement age to 65 for new entrants.

"People have joined the public sector professions with clear expectations of what the pension scheme would deliver and changes to it midstream created a lot of anger," Mr Wimbor said. "It is important for them that the ground is not going to shift."

Meanwhile, nearly 3,000 teachers due to start next session would at least know where they stood. It is likely that talks between the Government, unions and employers will mean that they will be able to pay more into their pension if they want to quit earlier.

Any savings from raising the retirement age for new entrants to 65 are expected to be ploughed back into improved benefits.

Mr Wimbor said: "The agreement is clearly a significant achievement and has been reached as a result of the sustained campaign by the EIS and other teacher and public service unions."

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