Strike ballot on cards over higher pension payments

4th February 2011 at 00:00
Teacher unions sound out membership on action to fight 50 per cent hike in contributions

Industrial action over the hike in teachers' pension contributions has moved significantly up the agenda south of the border.

The National Union of Teachers is considering a ballot of its members over industrial action against increased contributions from teachers, The TESS has learnt.

The move comes after the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) - one of the most moderate unions - announced that it was already preparing a vote over action against UK Government plans that would see pension contributions rise by about 50 per cent.

The Scottish teacher unions have not yet declared their hand.

The Educational Institute of Scotland has so far only committed itself to a lobbying campaign with Scottish MPs at Westminster and is encouraging its members to write to their own MPs as part of the union's campaign "to protect fair pensions for Scottish teachers".

Teachers' leaders were among 55 public sector union leaders gathered to discuss co-ordinated action over pension changes and government cuts at the TUC last Friday.

But it is thought unlikely that the NUT will confirm a ballot until a clear cross-union plan of action is decided. Its last national strike action over pay in 2008, which it undertook alone, was supported by only a quarter of its membership.

Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT, said: "Like the ATL, we consider this a very serious matter, and the NUT executive has already discussed balloting members. We will be discussing this matter further with the ATL and other teaching and public sector unions.

"All of the UK teacher organisations are united in opposing unnecessary pension cuts which will make our members poorer in retirement."

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: "Anger will continue to ferment and deepen unless the coalition Government responds positively and swiftly now to the TUC's repeated representations to engage in meaningful discussions on public sector pay and pensions."

Unions are furious that the Government wants to settle the detail of how to implement the changes to teacher pensions this month, before the independent Hutton report into public sector pensions is published.

The proposals would see a rise of about pound;100 a month for the average teacher by 2014-15.

Unions have also expressed concerns that an up-to-date valuation of the Teachers' Pension Scheme has not yet been carried out.

Despite its moderate reputation, ATL deputy general secretary Martin Johnson said: "Our consultation with members shows the anger is deep and the majority want some action taken."

The EIS, in common with other public sector unions, will be taking part in the TUC's "march for the alternative" rally in London on March 26 to protest against the UK Government's spending cuts.

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