Strike call by teaching unions to repel ‘attack on education’

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TEACHERS have called for public sector workers to stage a 24-hour general strike amid rows over pensions and funding cuts for education.

Delegates at the National Union of Teachers (NUT) Conference in Harrogate passed a resolution to ballot for a walkout over the Government’s controversial reforms of the Teachers’ Pension Scheme.

But in a motion condemning the Government spending cuts NUT members also heard calls for a general strike.

Phillip Clarke, an NUT member who led a debate on spending cuts in education, said: “An unprecedented attack needs an unprecedented response. What that means is demonstrations, industrial action and doing whatever we can for a 24-hour public sector general strike if possible to begin the fightback against this government.”

The NUT passed a motion on pensions on Saturday which called for a ballot over a potential strike and instructed the executive to work with other unions planning industrial action over pension reform to “maximise pressure” on the Government.

National executive member and Bradford branch secretary Ian Murch told other teaching unions: “Join us, we can become even stronger and we can win.”

The NUT is the second teaching union in the space of a week to agree to ballot over pensions. The traditionally moderate Association of Teachers (ATL) voted to ballot at their annual conference on Tuesday.

The other main union, the NASUWT, stopped short of this yesterday. Its annual conference in Glasgow passed a resolution saying that joint-union industrial action was inevitable unless the coalition halted “its attack on public sector pensions”. They have not, however, made plans to ballot members at this stage.

Unions are angry at plans to increase the amount teachers pay into their schemes, the potential increase in the retirement age up to 68 and a move, already carried out by the Government, to switch the uprating of pensions from the Retail Prices Index (RPI) to the Consumer Prices Index (CPI), which will decrease the value of pension schemes. Talks between unions and the Government over pensions will end in June.

NUT general secretary Christine Blower said: “The Government is not taking these talks seriously. They haven’t carried out the valuation – required by law – which would demonstrate the actual costs of our pensions.

“They have implemented a change from RPI to CPI indexation with no negotiation and this will cost existing and future pensioners many thousands of pounds.

“Government plans to finalise pension increases by June this year. The three per cent increase for teachers is not about funding the scheme, it’s a tax to help pay down the deficit and represents a significant pay cut for teachers.

The University and College Union has already held strikes over pensions and the executive of the Public and Commercial Services Union decided earlier this month to hold a ballot over job cuts and services.

A Government spokesman said: “Former Work and Pensions Secretary Lord Hutton has made it clear that change is needed. People are living longer – in the early 1970s life expectancy of a 60-year-old was around 18 years: now it is around 28 years. This has meant that the value of public service pensions has increased, with most of these costs falling to employers and taxpayers.

“The Government has accepted Lord Hutton’s recommendations as a basis for consultation with public sector workers and will set out proposals by the autumn that are affordable, sustainable, and fair to both the public sector workforce and taxpayers.”