Union anger over teachers' pension hike

4th January 2013 at 00:00
Government plan to raise contributions by 1.2 per cent prompts EIS fury

Teacher unions have condemned plans by the Scottish government to increase the contribution rate for the Scottish teachers' pension scheme.

The proposed hike of 1.2 per cent this year would be the second increase in two years and would take the contribution rate to 8.96 per cent on average.

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said: "The Scottish government claims to oppose the increase but, in meekly passing on the Con-Dem proposal, it has become complicit in this attack on the public-sector workforce, and teachers in particular."

He added: "Frankly, we expected more fight from the SNP government. To rub salt in the wound, it has simply passed on the English contribution tiers, rejecting our request that young teachers still moving through the early stages of the pay scale be protected in some way."

Mr Flanagan described the Scottish government's consultation on the pension increase as "largely a sham", claiming it was clear that it had decided to impose this increase.

And he warned that the move had not inspired any "sense of trust or hope that the negotiations on the scheme-specific changes might achieve an acceptable resolution".

The teacher unions have been campaigning for a "Scottish solution" to plans by the UK government to link teachers' pensions to later retirement ages of 67 initially and then 68. They want the Scottish government to break that link and allow teachers to retire at 65 without significant loss of pension entitlement.

Alan McKenzie, acting general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association, said: "We can only hope that the continuing negotiations on breaking the link with state pension age are more fruitful. Perhaps we need greater explanation of the extent to which the Scottish government's hands are tied. Our understanding is that the Scottish government is actually free to negotiate within the cost envelope. This is not a case of hands being tied but an example of choice being exercised."

The education secretary, Michael Russell, insisted, however, that its hands were tied and that the pension reforms were being imposed by the Treasury. For the Scottish government to refuse to apply these increases would result in its funding being reduced by #163;100 million for each and every year the increase was not applied, he said.

"It is with deep disappointment that the Scottish government must implement the increases being set out by the Westminster government," he added.

"The proposals contained in the consultation on teacher pensions are our considered view of the most appropriate rates to apply in the absence of consensus or compelling evidence of any particular alternative. We remain, however, happy to consider such evidence or arguments, should they be provided," said Mr Russell.

elizabeth.buie@tess.co.uk.

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