EI affiliates in Britain have voted to take part in strike action on 30 June to defend members’ pensions. The National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) have voted to join University and College Union (UCU) members in the national day of action.
UCU members in the Teachers' Pension Scheme were balloted for action earlier this year and on 24 March lecturers at over 500 colleges and universities took strike action. UCU has since announced that its members in further education colleges in England and Wales and 'post-1992' universities, will be taking strike action to defend pensions.
The row is over planned changes to the Teachers' Pension Scheme (TPS), which UCU says will see greater contributions from pension scheme members for reduced benefits. The union has warned that there could be a significant opt-out by new starters, which would not only damage their chances of a decent retirement, but also the long-term sustainability of the pension scheme.
UCU General Secretary, Sally Hunt, said: “The average lecturer faces an increase of around £90 a month in exchange for reduced benefits. UCU remains committed to a negotiated solution, but that requires employers and government to actively engage with, and listen to, staff concerns. We are pleased that other unions have now also balloted in favour of strike action and will be joining us on 30 June.
“Educators do not like taking strike action. Our chosen vocation is to change lives and transform life chances and we are unlikely militants. However, while ordinary people suffer huge cuts in their standards of living, the richest 1,000 people in Britain saw their collective wealth rise by 18 per cent last year.”
The NUT General Secretary, Christine Blower, said: “Teachers do not take strike action lightly but the overwhelming support for action by 92 per cent of NUT members shows that teachers feel what is happening to their pensions is wrong.
“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. We hope that our action and that of the ATL will persuade the Government to change its attitude.
“The simple truth is that many teachers cannot afford a 50 per cent increase in their pension contributions. NUT surveys show that many teachers will leave the scheme and even leave the profession. The Government needs to address these issues in its negotiations.
“The NUT believes teachers’ pensions are affordable. 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”.