London pension strike: logical ‘next step’ or ‘completely irresponsible’?

Schools, colleges and universities across London were affected on Wednesday as the NUT and University College Union (UCU) called a one-day strike in the next step of their pensions campaign. The NUT says that the government still wants to make teachers pay more, work longer and get less, and that imminent pension changes are an extra tax on teachers when the top rate of tax is being cut. But the DfE described the action as “completely irresponsible”: “the deal on the table is as good as it gets,” said a spokesperson.

According to The Guardian, unions said the action hit more than 60 higher and further education institutions, and “a ‘substantial number’ of schools were closed or partially shut as a result of the strike”.

The action comes just a week before the first stage of a 50% increase in pension contributions for teachers and lecturers. The unions say that this is despite evidence that the cost of pensions is actually falling following changes made in 2007, and that the government has shown no evidence that their pensions are either unsustainable or unaffordable.

‘As good as it gets’: DfE

But a DfE spokesperson described the decision to take action as “completely irresponsible”.

“The deal on the table is as good as it gets and talks are not going to be reopened.

“Most people will struggle to understand why NUT’s leadership is rejecting a good offer which guarantees their own members a far better pension than the vast majority of people in the country will ever get. Industrial action just risks unnecessarily harming children’s education and damaging the reputation of the entire profession in the public’s eyes.

“Reforms to public sector pensions are essential – the status quo is simply not an option. The cost to the taxpayer of the Teachers’ Pension Scheme is already forecast to double from £5billion in 2006 to £10billion in 2016 and will carry on rising rapidly as life expectancy continues to improve.”

Government ‘intransigent’: NUT

NUT General Secretary, Christine Blower, said: “Teachers cannot be expected to do anything other than defend the right to a pension which they have paid into in good faith and which the government has shown no evidence that they are either unsustainable or unaffordable. No teacher wants to be in this position. Pension increases are just an extra tax on teachers, when the top rate of tax is being cut. It is the government’s intransigence and total disregard of the facts that has forced teachers to continue with this action.”

As the day of action progressed, one striker, ‘Lord Lumey’ tweeted: “Would like to be in school teaching. As it is, have to strike to defend my basic and fair pension entitlement. Thanks government.”

Should teachers continue their action over pensions, or accept that the current offer really is “as good as it gets”? Did you choose to strike on 28th March? Why not tell us about the day.

To find out more about the strikes and what was happening in the day take a look at the TeachinLondon Twitter feed!

4 thoughts on “London pension strike: logical ‘next step’ or ‘completely irresponsible’?

  1. A race to the bottom is not in anyone’s interests, whether it be teachers or any other workers struggling to maintain pension payments in the context of a long-term decline in living standards. After the kind of work expected from people in this country, fully at the expense of any work-life balance or family commitments, everyone is entitled not to face a retirement in poverty; therefore teachers’ pensions should be maintained as the first step in ensuring that pensions for ALL improve. In order to fund this, there needs to be much better acceptance of a readjustment of wealth between rich and poor. In Scandinavian countries, the wealthy accept the need to pay higher taxes and contribute to schemes such as pensions which will raise the standard of living of the majority in order to create a more harmonious society with the scope for proper respect for the elderly, rather than the demeaning attitude taken in this country that the elderly are a burden, don’t deserve decent pensions or proper healthcare (which is implied through so much government policy at the moment).

  2. This is an attack, not just on teacher’s pensions, but on pensions across the whole public sector, so we need to continue united public sector action on pensions. It is not true that the offer is “as good as it gets”. Public sector pensions were renegotiated in 2008 to be affordable for the next 50 years, so why are we being asked now to pay more, work longer, get less? The money is there to provide decent pensions for everybody – the government are, quite simply lying, when they pretend that they cannot afford this. They can afford tax cuts for those earning more than £150,000 a year. They can afford to go to war in Afghanistan. So they can afford decent pensions for public sector workers.

  3. Teachers are not greedy selfish people, otherwise they would not be teachers. They are caring and hardworking. Teaching can be a dangerous and very stressful job. Many women have a break and lose out on pension arrangements. Many have to retire before 55. School teaching requires a great deal of energy. Many schools give no breaks during the day, and require much evening work. Your life is not your own as a school teacher. The emotional, mental and physical demands are enormous in many schools with long hours, and nowadays exposure to dangerous flues and now T.B. in some areas during the winter. Supply teachers and special needs teachers have the stress of poor behaviour and aggression from pupils and concern for struggling families. Teaching is very responsible work, often social workers, counsellors and psychologist skills needed in addition to crowd control and teach. Good teachers are the glue of communities and the conduit to raise young people above their expectations. Many good teachers stay in the profession because of the few perks, one is a reasonable (though not brilliant) pension, the other is holidays which give you chance to recover and prepare for the next term. There are no others, and even daily pay like supply teaching is very much below other professional pay. Low pay and limited opportunities mean that Teachers have to be dedicated to even be in the job.

  4. A nation which does not respect and reasonably pay is lessening its future intellectual force and surely going to be dependent on other nations in all respects.

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