Teachers reject final offer in pensions dispute

Teachers’ leaders refused to sign up to the Government’s final offer on pensions, dealing another blow to hopes that the bitter dispute could soon be resolved.

The executive of the NASUWT said it reserved the union’s position, claiming that the Department for Education’s (DfE) process of trying to reach a deal had been “completely unsatisfactory”.

The move followed a decision by Unite’s health executive yesterday to reject the proposed deal for health workers, and a decision by the British Medical Association to survey around 130,000 doctors and medical students on the Government’s final offer, raising the prospect of their first industrial action ballot for over 30 years.

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Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: “Put bluntly, the NASUWT national executive has recognised that the process the DfE used to seek to reach agreement by its imposed deadline of December 20 was a debacle.

“Valuable time was wasted by the DfE. It failed to provide the necessary information on which meaningful discussions could take place, chopped and changed its mind on the issues which were up for discussion, and presented some potential changes which did not have Treasury approval.”

Ms Keates claimed teaching unions were “pressurised and threatened” to sign up to a document last month when a final draft was not available.

“Even when a document was produced as the final meeting was breaking up, overnight the wording was changed unilaterally by the DfE. In these circumstances, it would have been completely irresponsible for the NASUWT to have signed up to the heads of agreement.”

Members of the NASUWT took part in a huge strike last November involving millions of public sector workers, ranging from teachers and social workers, to headmasters and lollipop ladies.

A Health Department spokesman said of Unite’s decision: “The proposed new NHS pension scheme is a good deal – it is fair to the NHS workforce, it is fair to the taxpayer and makes public service pensions affordable and sustainable.

“The improved offer on public service pensions protects all those within 10 years of their pension age from any further change. It means the nurses and doctors who dedicate their life to treating us will continue to receive the best quality pensions available in this country.”