Teachers likely to strike over changes to pensions

26th Apr 2011

Workers with children could be in for a difficult summer and autumn after two teachers' unions voted to ballot for strike action against the coalition government's proposed changes to their pensions.
The National Union of Teachers voted this weekend for a ballot on a one-day walkout before the end of the summer term, only days after the traditionally most moderate teaching union, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, agreed to a similar ballot.
Joint action by the two unions could mean disruption for nearly every school in England and Wales and, if approved, would likely take place in June, making teachers among the first wave of public sector workers to take a stance over pensions.
At its annual conference in Harrogate, however, the NUT also passed an amendment calling for co-ordinated strike action in the autumn across the public sector, which would be organised with union umbrella group, the TUC. The unrest would start with a 24-hour "general strike".
Christine Blower, its general secretary, said: "NUT conference today sent a clear message to government that teachers will not stand by as their pensions are eroded." Presenters at the conference warned that pension changes, which could see teachers work until they are 68 while paying increased contributions, would mean that they were required to pay more, work longer hours and receive less when they retired.
It is understood that the average teachers' pension is about £10,000, with women receiving slightly less. The last time that NUT members, which number about 300,000, walked out - for the first time in 21 years - was in 2008 when they staged a one-day strike in a row over pay. The ATL, which has 80,000 members, has never taken national industrial action.
At the ATL's conference last week, however, schools minister Nick Gibbs was heckled and jeered at as he attempted to justify the government's pensions plans. As he told delegates that he understood the strength of feeling on the issue, he was met with cries of "rubbish" and "no, you don't."
The University and College Union has already held strikes over pensions and the executive of the Public and Commercial Services Union also decided to hold a ballot on job and services cuts earlier this month. The decision will be confirmed at its conference next month.

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