NUT threatens strikes ‘by the summer’ over pension changes

Union incensed at Government's decision to increase pension contributions and retirement age while holding down teachers' pay.

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The Independent Online

A series of regional strikes over the threat to teachers’ pensions could start as early as this summer term.

Delegates at the National Union of Teachers’ annual conference will tomorrow be urged to back a move for widespread regional action across England and Wales following a one-day by London teachers last month.

The union is incensed at the Government’s decision to increase pension contributions and the retirement age while holding down teachers’ pay.

Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary of the NUT, said:  “It is absolutely clear that teachers don’t accept the changes that the Government are making.

“For the first time since the 1930’s teachers will see a cash reduction in their take home pay this month because their contributions go up.”

The union estimates this will mean a teacher with ten years’ experience working outside London will lose £30 a month now – rising to £74 as contributions increase yet again by 2014.  In inner London, the figures will be £49 and £123 respectively.

The conference in Torquay will tomorrow also be urged to discuss joint strike action with other public services unions “in the summer term and beyond”.

Christine Blower, the union’s general secretary stressed that exam classes would be exempted from any action. Strikes over pensions would not need a further ballot of teachers as they have already voted in favour of them.

The threat of pensions’ strike is one of half a dozen issues on which the union will threaten strike action over the next few days at the conference.

A motion calling for action up to strike on the Government’s move to scrap national pay agreements and introduce regional pay will be debated on Monday.

Other issues to be debated include a call for a boycott of new reading tests for six-year-olds this summer,  Teachers’ leaders consider the tests, designed to show whether pupils can spell phonetically, are “unnecessary”.

The Nut is also warning of ballots on strike action in schools which take an “extree2 on the Government’s dispensation to make it easier to dismiss teachers for poor performance from September – and over moves to introduce a five-term year, as is planned in Nottingham, to reduce their summer holidays.

The NUT is not alone in threatening strike action over pay and pensions.  Yesterday Chris Keates, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters and Union of Women Teachers, warned of an autumn of discontent in schools.  It will be debating “ratcheting up” a work-to-rule that it is currently operating in schools later tomorrow.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said of the threatened strikes over pensions: said the deal currently on offer – accepted by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers earlier this week – was “as good as it gets and takes the right balance , guaranteeing teachers one of the best pensions”.

On regional pay, he added: “We’re well off making final decisions on this so it is far too premature to talk about industrial action.”

The profession’s pay review body had been asked to make a report on the issue in September – after which the Government would consult on any proposals.