Six out of ten back pensions strike

18th February 2005 at 00:00
Poll suggests teachers are in militant mood over plans to make them work till they are 65. William Stewart report.

Almost six out of 10 teachers would back a national strike over plans to raise the pension age from 60 to 65, according to a poll by the second biggest teaching union.

The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers is now considering a formal strike ballot over the issue.

Its 72-hour online survey of 7,496 members last weekend found that 58 per cent supported a strike to resist the changes, which include increasing the minimum age for drawing a pension from 50 to 55. Nearly two-thirds of teachers said they were aware of the increased pension age plan and 96 per cent backed some form of action, ranging from writing to MPs to a strike.

Chris Keates, general secretary, said: "Clearly the time has come for the Government to pause, reflect and rethink its strategy."

The National Union of Teachers began a consultative ballot of members this week, asking whether they would favour a one-day strike, other forms of industrial action, or rallies and leafleting.

And as The TES went to press talks were continuing between support staff unions, Unison and the TG and John Prescott, the deputy prime minister, to see if strike action over pensions could be averted. A rise in normal retirement age from 60 to 65 for school support staff is due this April, much earlier than for teachers.

Unison has already begun formally balloting members for a strike, pencilled in for March 23. Teachers and support staff are among those participating in a Trades Union Congress day of action today. Activities include a rally in London and a campaign to enlist the support of MPs.

Ms Keates said the survey's results showed that teachers of all ages were equally concerned about the changes, disproving the "widely held view" that young teachers were indifferent to them.

She said strike action was a last resort. The NASUWT would rather resolve the dispute through the social partnership with the Government which has helped to resolve other difficult issues. Steve Sinnott, NUT general secretary, called on his members to support a one-day strike.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers has no immediate plans to ballot over strike action but has not ruled it out in the future.

A Department for Education and Skills spokesman said its proposals would improve teachers' pensions from 180th to 160th of salary for each year's service.

* William.Stewart@tes.co.uk

letters 26, FE Focus 6

Changes to pensions

* The normal retirement age will be raised from 60 to 65, from next year for new teachers and from 2013 for existing staff

* Pension rights accrued through service before 2013 would be protected.

But if a teacher decides to retire at 60 after the change, they would lose out. For example someone who is 45 in 2013 who goes on to retire at 60 would get a reduced pensionto reflect the fact that they retired five years early

* The Government plans to increase the minimum age from which a pension can be taken for virtually all workers - public and private - from 50 to 55 by 2010

* Teachers who retire on ill health grounds but are fit enough to do other jobs will get smaller pensions than those unfit to do any form of work

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