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UK Politics

Teachers condemn pension reforms

Teachers' unions have reacted angrily to the Government's new pension plans, warning the consequences of this "ruthless dismantling" could be "disastrous".

Under proposals published today, a classroom teacher earning £25,700 will pay an extra £10 a month for their pension in 2012/13.

And a headteacher earning £100,000 a year will pay an additional £100.50 per month.

The Department for Education this morning launched a consultation on the proposed increases, which are for 2012/13 only.

Ministers announced plans last year to change public sector pensions, but it has proved highly controversial, with education unions warning it will leave teachers paying more, receiving less when they retire and working later.

Last month three teaching unions staged a one-day walkout, alongside civil servants, in protest at the proposals.

Responding to today's announcement, Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), warned that further action could not be ruled out.

"Beginning a formal consultation over the political recess when there will be little chance for scrutiny will be regarded, quite rightly by teachers as a cynical move," she said.

"We cannot allow this ruthless dismantling of our public sector pensions to go ahead. The consequences will be disastrous, not only for the individual, but for society as a whole, who will be left to foot the bill of yet more pensioners unable to afford to live from day to day due to inadequate pension provision."

The NUT will be working with other teaching unions and the TUC to ensure that teachers and public sector workers are not "penalised by a Government which appears to be determined to wreck havoc on a pension scheme that is sustainable, affordable and fair," Ms Blower said.

"NUT members have taken strike action before to defend their pensions and will do so again if the Government does not see sense".

Schools Minister Nick Gibb insisted the Government wanted to provide a "fair and sustainable pension for the teaching profession".

But he added: "People are living longer and this makes pensions more expensive. Lord Hutton made it clear that there needs to be a fairer balance between what employees and taxpayers contribute towards public service pensions. It is right that we ask public sector employees to pay more towards their pension to ensure they are affordable for future generations of teachers.

It is "vital" that new and low paid teachers are protected from increases, Mr Gibb said.

"We are proposing to go beyond the commitment of capping the increase for those earning less than £21,000 and extending that cap up to £26,000. This will mean 117,000 teachers seeing an increase of just 0.6% next April, and a teacher earning £25,000 will pay around an additional £10 per month after tax relief," he said.

Under the DfE's new proposals, a newly-qualified teacher earning £21,000 a year would pay an extra £126 in 2012/13 before tax relief.

After tax relief, the additional contribution is £103 for the year - around £8.50 a month.

For a classroom teacher earning £25,000 the extra contribution would be £154 for the year, or £122 a year after tax relief - £10 a month.

An experienced classroom teacher with an annual salary of £35,000 would pay an extra £420 before tax relief in 2012/13, which is reduced to £341 after tax relief, or £28 a month.

A teacher in a senior leadership post, such as a deputy head, earning £60,000 would contribute an extra £960 before tax relief, and £581 afterwards, monthly payments of £48.

And a headteacher on £100,000 a year will pay an extra £2,000 before tax relief and £1,206 afterwards - or £100.50 a month.

Overall, teachers and headteachers would be contributing between 7% and 8.4% of their salaries towards their pension in 2012/13.

Malcolm Trobe, policy director at the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: "It's completely inappropriate for the Treasury to announce pension changes while it claims to be negotiating in good faith with public sector workers.

"The proposed increase in pension contributions is about plugging the hole in the deficit created by the banking crisis, it's not about making the pension scheme affordable in the long term."

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), said: "Today's proposed increases in pension contributions have nothing to do with the health of the Teachers' Pension Scheme, which ATL has repeatedly asked the Government to value.

"Should a valuation show the Teachers' Pension Scheme is unhealthy, ATL would make sure that the scheme and the future of our members are protected. In fact, ATL agreed to increased contributions after the last valuation in 2006. However, the Government has chosen not to value the scheme, despite a valuation being due in 2010.

"It's clear that the proposed contribution increases are simply a way of raising money from teachers and lecturers to go to the Treasury, not towards pensions. We don't think this tax on teachers is fair and our members have already demonstrated their strength of opposition by striking on June 30."

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), said: "This is not a consultation. The Government had made up its mind a long time ago to raid the Teachers' Pension Scheme. We now have the privilege of commenting on how efficiently it plans to do so.

"It has nothing to do with the affordability or sustainability of teachers' pensions, either; it is a tax on teachers to pay for the mistakes of others. At a time of rising targets, sharper scrutiny and a two-year pay freeze, this will be seen in the profession as undermining and punishing what the Secretary of State himself has described as our best generation of teachers and leaders ever; not a great morale builder."