Education International
Education International

UK: educators’ unions vote to strike over pensions, pay and job losses

published 12 April 2012 updated 20 April 2012

At their annual conferences, two of EI’s affiliates in the United Kingdom, the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the National Association of Schoolmasters’ Union and Women Teachers (NASUWT), have voted in favour of further industrial action, including strikes. The organisations profoundly disagree with the Cameron Government’s policy on public sector pensions.

The latest moves by the two unions mean that schools across the country could now face walkouts from the summer onwards.

At its annual conference in Torquay from 6–10 April, the NUT passed a resolution calling for the union to work with its local divisions with the “aim of organising a further one-day national strike before the end of June”.

The motion instructs the executive to “seek to build a coalition of unions committed to further strike action in the summer term and beyond to defeat the Government's proposals”.

Clear rejection of government policy on pensions

“The overwhelming majority of teachers and their organisations have clearly rejected the Government's policy for the teachers' pension scheme,” underlined NUT General Secretary Christine Blower.

“The NUT conference has now agreed a comprehensive strategy and position to make sure that we are able to take action in order to give life to that rejection of the pensions and in order to win something better for our members so that they don't have to work longer, pay more and get less.”

The NUT has declared that the Government's proposals will leave teachers paying more towards their pensions, working longer and receiving less when they retire.

Safeguard teachers’ interests

The NASUWT passed a resolution arguing that continuing their industrial action campaign is “the best means of protecting and safeguarding the interests of teachers and state education until the next general election”. It warned that in the face of a “vicious and unjustified assault on teachers, it will be essential to intensify the industrial action campaign”.

NASUWT treasurer Brian Cookson said there had been an “unprecedented, vicious, prejudiced and totally unjustified attack on the public sector” in the last two years.

He explained that education is on the front line of an attack on workers' rights, pay cuts, and increased pension costs.

"As teachers, we are supreme professionals and we must be treated as such. As our general secretary has said, ‘Teaching is not rocket science, it is more difficult than that!’ We want to achieve the best for the children we teach. We care about the future. We believe in education as a right.”

Educators must not pay for economic crisis

EI supports its affiliates in their struggle to see their rights respected by national authorities.

“As representative of 30 million educators worldwide, we will continue the campaign against poverty and for the right of every child to education, the defense of jobs, decent salaries and pensions, and the future of democratically controlled education,” said EI President Susan Hopgood.

“Ordinary people, workers, and trade unions did not cause the global financial crisis and should not be made to pay the price,” she emphasised.

She deplored the fact that many governments, faced with growing public debt and budgetary constraints as a result of the bailout of the financial sector, are adopting austerity measures. These measures include cutting public funding for education, deregulating the teaching profession, privatising education and eliminating employees’ rights to collective bargaining.

“I am deeply concerned by the increased state-sponsored abuse and scapegoating of teachers, other public service workers, and trade unionists during the period of the global financial crisis,” Hopgood added.

Making the teaching profession attractive

The EI Education Policy Paper, adopted at the 6th EI World Congress held last July in Cape Town, South Africa, also states, “The attractiveness of the teaching profession needs to be urgently improved. The current generation of teachers is ageing and alarming numbers of new teachers are leaving the profession within the first years of employment.”

The document reiterates: ‘It is the responsibility of public authorities and leaders of education institutions to ensure that the teaching, academic and research professions remain attractive to both current and potential staff by ensuring that working conditions, social security arrangements, pension schemes and salaries are attractive and are comparable to those applicable to other professions requiring a similar level of qualifications. The professional commitment of teachers and academics to the education and welfare of their students should be recognised and respected.”

It insists that “the salaries, pension schemes and conditions of service for those working in education should be comparable with those available to other groups in society with similar qualifications”.