Teacher strikes a 'racing certainty' for the summer term

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The Independent Online

Every school in England and Wales will be hit by strike action over pensions this summer term, teachers' leaders warned last night.

The 300,000-strong National Union of Teachers is certain to back a ballot on a series of strikes over the Government's pension plans when it debates the issue later this afternoon.

The decision means it will join forces with the more moderate Association of Teachers and Lecturers in planning strike action by the end of June. If that fails to convince ministers to change their minds, there will be further strikes in the autumn term.

Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT, said: "I think it is a racing certainty that all schools will be affected by it." The strike vote will cover all 24,000 state schools, but the involvement of the ATL, which has 20,000 members in the private sector, could see action spread to independent schools as well.

The threat of action coincides with a survey published today by the NUT showing that two-thirds of teachers say they would be more likely to quit the profession if the Government's pension changes are confirmed.

The online poll of 7,500 teachers also revealed their biggest concern was a move to raise the retirement age from 65 to 68.

Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary of the NUT, said the findings of the survey should be "very disturbing" for the Government. "There is already a problem with retaining teachers in schools," he said. "Making that problem worse is really damaging."

Under the Government's proposals, teachers would have to fork out an extra £100 a month on average to pay for their pensions. Payments would then be calculated on their average salary, rather than their final salary as at present. Union financial experts reckon the average teacher would lose around £100 per month in pension payments.

Lord Hutton, the former Labour minister who conducted a review of public sector pensions for the Government, also suggested that the retirement age should be raised to 68 and that teachers in private schools should be excluded from the scheme.

Today's survey revealed that 51.8 per cent of teachers thought raising the retirement age to 68 was the most damaging proposal. However, 69 per cent said they were either very likely or more likely to quit the profession as a result of all the changes.

If the ballots approve strike action, teachers would be the first public servants to strike over the pension plans.