NASUWT and NUT call for urgent talks with ministers to resolve pensions issue
Two teaching unions have today refused to sign up to the government’s proposed changes to pensions.
In separate meetings this morning, senior members of the NASUWT and NUT said they could not agree with the proposals unless changes were made.
NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said: “Put bluntly, our national executive has recognised that the process the Department of Education (DoE) used to seek to reach agreement by its imposed deadline of 20 December was a debacle.
“Valuable time was wasted by the DoE. 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.
“Unions were pressurised and threatened to sign up to a document when a final draft was not even available and even when a document was produced as the final meeting was breaking up, overnight the wording was changed unilaterally by the DoE.
“In these circumstances, it would have been completely irresponsible for the NASUWT to have signed-up to the Heads of Agreement.”
Meanwhile, following a meeting of a senior committee of its executive, the NUT has called for further urgent discussions with government.
When the teacher unions met the DoE ministers before Christmas, the NUT reserved its position on the government’s proposals. The union has now agreed to continue to pursue further changes to those proposals.
General secretary Christine Blower said: “We remain concerned about proposed increases in employee contributions and pension ages. We believe that increasing contributions at a time of real terms pay cuts will lead many teachers to opt out from pension provision and threaten the future of the Teachers’ Pension Scheme. The NUT is also concerned that a large majority of teachers will not be able to work successfully in the classroom to age 68.
“The NUT is also committed to appealing against the High Court judgement on the government’s change in pensions indexation. The High Court agreed with us that the government’s decision was intended principally to save money, not to find a more appropriate method of indexation. The NUT will continue to press the courts to declare this decision unlawful.”
The full NUT executive will meet on Thursday to take further decisions on how to progress the campaign to save teachers’ pensions.
Christine Blower said: “We remain committed to a negotiated agreement on pensions but these proposals will not, in our opinion, serve the interests of teachers or the education system. Michael Gove assured us in December that sufficient time and resources would be provided to secure a solution. The government must face the fact that further discussions and additional funding are needed.”
The sticking points for the NASUWT are:
- the Heads of Agreement document is incomplete and lacks an appropriate assessment of the impact of the changes on teachers;
- the manner in which the DoE conducted the process of seeking to reach agreement has been completely unsatisfactory;
- critical issues of concern remain, including the contribution rates and the normal pension age.
Chris Keates said: “These are critical issues which have profound implications for teachers, for the profession and for the education service.
“The Secretary of State promised that he would ensure that the interests of teachers were protected and that he would devote all the time and resources necessary to ensure that every effort was made to reach an agreement.
“I will therefore be writing to the Secretary of State today requesting that he meets as a matter of urgency, with the NASUWT and the other unions which have reserved their position on signing the Heads of Agreement to discuss fully these concerns.”
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