Save our pensions

18th February 2005 at 00:00
Scottish teachers are today (Friday) being asked to take up their pens and write in protest to their MPs and MSPs over plans to raise the pensionable age for public sector workers.

In a "day of activity" led by the TUC and STUC, teachers' unions are being asked to play their part in a national protest.

Teachers' opposition has been focused on what would be an enforced change in the rules for current pension scheme members, meaning that they could no longer retire at 60 on full pension.

While some unions such as Unison are balloting on industrial action, teachers' unions have so far resisted calls for direct action.

The plan to raise the normal pension age from 60 to 65 will apply to new entrants from 2006, and to current scheme members for all service after 2013. The minimum age for premature retirement compensation will rise from 50 to 55 for new entrants from next year, and will apply to current members from 2010.

Speaking to members in Dumfries and Galloway this week, Ronnie Smith, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, said one of the strongest criticisms of the proposals was that they would move the goalposts retrospectively. "A strong case can be made that current members should have the right to hold to the scheme, on the terms they joined, and be free to switch to any revised scheme only if they prefer that option," Mr Smith said.

While the Treasury underwrites teacher schemes and has effective control of policy, the Scottish scheme is technically separate and MSPs will have to decide on any revised regulations.

Mr Smith commented: "There are minor differences in the Scottish scheme as things stand and, once the overall review is done, there will be a need to see what adjustments, if any, are needed for Scotland - but realistically, the scope is very limited."

Improvements being considered include greater flexibility; rights for unmarried and same sex partners; dependants' benefits payable for life instead of ceasing on remarriage or cohabitation; death in service gratuity to rise from two times to three times annual salary.

Some 1,700 responses were made to the initial consultation over changes to the Scottish Teachers' Superannuation Scheme (STSS), which is administered by the Scottish Public Pensions Agency.

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