Teachers latest to reject pension deal

6 Jan 12
Two teaching unions have refused to sign up to the main points of the government’s public sector pension changes, bringing the total rejections to three in the past day.
By Richard Johnstone | 5 January 2012

Two teaching unions have refused to sign up to the main points of the government’s public sector pension changes, bringing the total rejections to three in the past day.

Both the National Union of Teachers and the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers today called for urgent talks with the government over the plans.

The NUT, which did not sign up to the headline terms for reform that were announced late last year, said ‘further change’ was needed, including more government cash.

The NASUWT, which also reserved its position when Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander outlined the principal changes on December 20, said the information provided by the government was ‘incomplete’. It also hit out at the Department for Education’s conduct of negotiations, describing it as ‘completely unsatisfactory’.

Yesterday, the Unite union rejected the planned reforms, after it too had reserved its position.

The government has said that negotiations on the main points have concluded. These include a later retirement age, a move to a career average defined benefit and increased worker contributions.

Other unions, including the Association of Teachers and Lecturers and most of those representing local government and health service staff, have signed up to the headline terms and are taking the deal to members for approval.

Following a meeting of a senior committee of the NUT executive, general secretary Christine Blower said: ‘We remain committed to a negotiated agreement on pensions but these proposals will not, in our opinion, serve the interests of teachers or the education system.

‘Michael Gove assured us in December that sufficient time and resources would be provided to secure a solution. The government must face the fact that further discussions and additional funding are needed.’

The NUT’s executive will now meet on January 12 to decide what steps to take. It remains concerned about proposed increases in employee contributions and pension ages, which it argues could lead to many teachers opting out of the Teachers’ Pension Scheme.

These concerns are shared by the NASUWT, whose general secretary Chris Keates said: ‘Put bluntly, the NASUWT national executive has recognised that the process the Department for Education used to seek to reach agreement by its imposed deadline of December 20 was a debacle.

‘I will therefore be writing to the secretary of state today requesting that he meets as a matter of urgency with the NASUWT and the other unions which have reserved their position on signing the Heads of Agreement to discuss fully these concerns.’

Following the unions’ announcement, ATL general secretary Mary Bousted reiterated that it was putting ministers’ offer on teachers’ pensions to members.

The government was ‘quite clear’ that it had made its final offer, and that further industrial action would not improve it, Bousted said.

She added: ‘In the current economic and political climate we believe that the 19 December offer is the best deal we could get through negotiation. Further prolonged industrial action, which is the only alternative, could lead to the government imposing significantly worse terms than are currently offered.'

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