Education & Family

Teachers' unions 'may consider further pensions action'

Teacher on march in London
Image caption Industrial action could continue in the autumn

Teachers' unions that held strikes over pensions in June have warned they may take further action in the autumn if the government stance does not change.

On Tuesday, Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander said negotiations with public sector unions had been "constructive" and announced talks on individual pension schemes.

But the ATL teachers' union said "very little" had been achieved.

They say the government is refusing to discuss key points.

The three unions that carried out strikes in England and Wales on 30 June - the Association of Lecturers and Teachers, the National Union of Teachers and University and College Union - said in a statement they remained committed to a negotiated solution.

But they warned: "If government will not budge from its current position those trade unions who have already taken action will, with regret, need to consider taking further industrial action in November."

Martin Johnson, deputy general secretary at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), said the government was "trying to put a positive political spin" on talks with the Trades Union Congress, despite "very little" being achieved.

ATL says the government is continuing to refuse to discuss major points of its proposed changes to the Teachers' Pension Scheme.

These including plans to raise the retirement age to 66 and then 68, and the target of £2.8bn savings per year from public sector pensions by 2014-15 - which the union says is "arbitrary".

'Disappointing'

On Tuesday, Mr Alexander said that pension contribution rises would go ahead as planned in 2012-13.

But he said there would be talks on finding other ways, rather than contribution rises, to find further savings in the subsequent two years.

Previously, ATL said it had been told teachers' contributions would rise from 6.4% to 9.8% by 2015.

The three unions also said they believed there was a "real danger that the government may impose an arbitrary and unfair ceiling" on spending on teachers' pensions.

"In our view, without real negotiations on this key issue, these talks will be a sham," they said in a statement.

Some 12,000 schools in England and Wales were closed or partially closed as teachers joined other public sector workers in large-scale strike on 30 June.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said it was "disappointing and unnecessary" as discussions on pensions were still going on.

The government says changes to public sector pensions are necessary to make the schemes sustainable and affordable as life expectancy rises.

It says the rationale for the changes was clearly laid out by Lord Hutton in his review of public sector pensions published earlier this year.

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