PCS to join teaching unions in strike over pensions

15 Jun 11
More than 650,000 public sector workers could take part in co-ordinated industrial action over pensions at the end of the month after a third union confirmed strike plans today

By Richard Johnstone | 15 June 2011

More than 650,000 public sector workers could take part in co-ordinated industrial action over pensions at the end of the month after a third union confirmed strike plans today

NUT Strick PA

The Public and Commercial Services union announced this afternoon that it will join the Association of Teachers & Lecturers and the National Union of Teachers in a strike on June 30.

The ATL and NUT both voted for strike action yesterday and confirmed the strike date this afternoon. The unions have around 160,000 and 218,000 members respectively and the PCS has 290,000 members.

The teaching unions balloted members on strike action over recommendations in Lord Hutton’s public pensions review, which reported in March. These include increasing the pension age and replacing the final salary pension scheme with one based on career average earnings.

More than 80% of those responding to the ATL’s first national ballot in its 127-year history voted to strike. In the NUT's case, 92% voted for action over the plans, which also propose increasing employee contributions by more than 50% – from 6.4% to 9.8% of salary.

The PCS ballot covered a dispute over pay as well as pensions, with the union calling for an end to the public sector pay freeze.

Announcing the ballot result in which 61.1% voted for a strike, PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: ‘This result shows that public servants, who provide vital services from the cradle to the grave, will not stand back while everything they have ever worked for is taken from them.

‘Unless ministers abandon their ideological plans to hollow out the public sector, they will face industrial action on a mass scale on June 30 and beyond.’

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said that the government wouldn’t ‘rule out’ toughening union law, a prospect raised by Business Secretary Vince Cable last week.

Confirming the strike dates, ATL president Andy Brown said: We do not want to strike, but unless we take a stand now the government will irreparably damage education in this country and children will lose out. We want to talk, but without a loaded gun to our heads.’

Christine Blower, the NUT general secretary, added: ‘Teachers do not take strike action lightly but the overwhelming support for action by NUT members shows that teachers feel that what is happening to their pensions is wrong.’

The union argues that changes made in 2007 to the teachers' and other public sector schemes had made the schemes affordable.

The changes agreed then, including increased contributions, will save the Treasury £67bn over the next 50 years, according to a Public Accounts Committee report published last month.

Blower said: ‘We have been prepared to negotiate and agree reforms in the past. The government should stick to the agreements made in 2007, not try to ride roughshod over them. The NUT will continue to take part in the TUC-led negotiations with government on pensions, so far there is no evidence that the Government is taking those talks seriously.’

The last planned meeting between the unions and the government will take place on June 28.The Department for Education said that it is committed to working with the unions.

Britain’s biggest public sector union, Unison, has already announced it is ‘going down the road’ to industrial action over the pension changes, and will ballot members if the meeting ends without agreement.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander will give a speech on the future of public sector pensions this Friday.  


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