NUT and ATL tell Education Secretary: “We’re not militant – we just want a fair deal over pensions”


Teaching unions have today told Education Secretary Michael Gove they have no intention of pulling out of Wednesday’s strikes.

The former NUJ strike leader – that’s Gove, by the way who, as a journalist at the Aberdeen Press and Journal stood on the picket lines – urged teachers to “think again” before striking. He also called them ‘militants’.

NUT general secretary Christine Blower replied: “This dispute has been created by a government which is determined to steam roller through pension reform that will irreparably damage teachers’ pensions. The issue has united the teaching profession, as will be demonstrated on November 30. This strike has nothing to with ‘militants’ but everything to do with teachers and head teachers who do not believe the Government is being fair or reasonable.

“In talking about teachers’ retirement ages, Michael Gove ignores the fact that those retiring earlier than their new pension age of 68 would face very substantial reductions in their pensions. More significantly, he ignores the fact that working to 68 simply won’t be physically possible for many and is not in the interests of either pupils or teachers.

“Michael Gove also misrepresents the cost of teachers’ pensions. His figures include the contributions made by teachers and their employers. The cost to the Treasury is far smaller and, as the National Audit Office has confirmed, the cost of teachers’ pensions as a whole is already falling due to reforms already made.

“The Education Secretary says that the accrual rate has been improved through DfE lobbying, but what he doesn’t say is that it’s only improved on the Government’s earlier position. It isn’t an improvement on the accrual rate that teachers have on the existing pension scheme.

“Michael Gove’s calculator only tells teachers how much they would get under his new scheme. The NUT’s calculator tells them what Michael Gove’s calculator doesn’t – how much extra they will pay, how much longer they will have to work for a full pension and how much they will lose in retirement due to his new scheme.
“The NUT absolutely agrees with Michael Gove that it is not in the best interest for teachers to opt out of the pension scheme. What he clearly fails to understand is that teachers also recognise this fact. The problem lies with the Government’s proposals to make teachers pay considerably more for a pension that will be worth considerably less. No matter how the Government tries to dress up its reforms, for many this is simply not financially feasible.”

And ATL general secretary Mary Bousted said: “Our members are among the least militant union members in the country.  They don’t want to strike, and they have never wanted to strike.  We have been asking the government to negotiate a fair deal for teachers for over ten months and are desperately keen to resolve the dispute.  But the government has been dragging its heels.  Instead of engaging in megaphone diplomacy, which is likely to annoy teachers even more than they are already, Mr Gove must be prepared for a bit more give and take in the ongoing talks with us and the other education unions.

“We are hearted by his comments in a BBC TV interview today that he is prepared to be flexible about the pension changes.  If he is at last showing the same flexibility as ATL, there may be a chance to negotiate an agreement.  It is just a shame it has taken a year to get to this point, and a pity parents and children will be inconvenienced on Wednesday because of the government’s intransigence up to now.”

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