UK Strike Threatens Education Reform, says Union

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, refused to rule out further regional strikes if negotiations remained in deadlock after Wednesday's walkout by 2.6 million workers, writes Jessica Shepherd at the Guardian.

"We would be prepared to consider other types of industrial action, depending on the outcome of negotiations," Blower said.

This view was affirmed by Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), who warned she that if ministers did not reconsider, the government would feel a sharp rebuttal in the next general election:

"People who have been shafted don't forget, they vote," she said.

The strike on Wednesday saw a huge number of public sector workers downing tools. They were joined with at least 668,000 teachers and lecturers from at least six unions from across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

This meant the closure of over half the primary and secondary schools in England and Wales, forcing parents to work from home, make childcare arrangements or take their children to the office, in what education secretary Michael Gove calls "an attack on families".

Under the reforms, teachers' monthly contributions to their pensions could up by 50%, from 6.4% to 9.6%, by 2014, while they could no longer be able to retire at 60 and instead would have to do so at the state pension age, which is 65. This is also set to rise to 66 in 2020 and then to 68.

Nick Gibb, the schools minister, says that change is inevitable as the cost to the taxpayer of teachers' pensions will double from £5bn in 2006 to £10bn in 2016. He said savings of £2.8bn from the public sector pensions bill are expected by 2015 and that this will require a 3.2 percentage point increase in contributions.

But Blower refuses to accept this.

"The cost of public sector pensions as a proportion of GDP is stabilizing and continuing to fall. The extra money public sector workers are being asked to pay is to fill the hole in the deficit," she said.

12 2, 2011
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