Further industrial action predicted as thousands of teachers strike over pensions


Click to follow
The Independent Online

Further national industrial action was predicted today as thousands of teachers and lecturers from London marched on the department of education to protest against changes to their pensions.

Around 6,000 people - double initial predictions - joined the strike, organised by the National Union of Teachers and University and College Union, with around two thirds of schools in London being affected through closure or reduced classes.

NUT executive member Alex Kenny described the government's most recent proposals for pension reform, which would require teachers to pay higher pension contributions and stay in work until they are 68, as "robbery", while Jeremy Corbyn, Laevin Courtney, deputy general secretary of the NUT, promised to call other teaching unions to join the NUT to "fight together" against the government's plans, and general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union Mark Serwotka said he would be recommending national strike action at their general conference in May, and hoped that the PCS would be able to work with teachers in the future.

UCU president Terry Hoad said: "There's a lot of strong feeling. It's an issue that's probably given a lot of members of the UCU more exercise than anything else in recent years," a view shared by Courtney, who said the march proved "there is still a huge degree of engagement with the pensions campaign …This gives a message to government that we're not going away; I think they thought they could put it to bed, but this demonstration today shows it's not all over."

Courtney also raised concerns that the government's proposals would discourage people from becoming teachers or remaining in the profession, a view shared by many teachers present.

Iluska Farkas, a teacher at Crampton Primary School in Southwark, said: "I do wonder and worry about the future of education ...quite frankly I would not recommend it to any young person thinking of entering education now, I would suggest they look elsewhere."

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said: "Strikes benefit no one. This deal is as good as it gets and takes the right balance - guaranteeing teachers one of the best pensions available but keeping a lid on rising costs for the taxpayer.

"We've been in serious talks for months with unions to address their concerns and reach a final settlement. This strike, ordered by the NUT's leaders, will not get its members any further forward.

"Reforms to public sector pensions are essential - the status quo is not an option. The cost to the taxpayer of teacher pensions is already forecast to double from £5 billion in 2006 to £10 billion in 2016 and will carry on rising rapidly as life expectancy continues to rocket."