Analysis Politics

Teachers to strike

Last week, the National Union of Teachers (NUT) voted overwhelmingly to strike in a row over changes to pensions. (Thumbnail credit Teachers' union votes to strike. Photo Credit: bensutherland)

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Last week, the National Union of Teachers (NUT) voted overwhelmingly to strike in a row over changes to pensions. The NUT and the more moderate Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), which had already voted in favour of strike action, will now join forces to maximise disruption, with a strike planned on the 30th of June.

The main grievance is the changes to their pension scheme under plans imposed by the coalition government's austerity campaign. Teachers' pensions are being devalued by the increase in the retirement age and the ending of final salary pension schemes.

It is possible that this could lead to a modern version of the 'winter of discontent.' With unions becoming increasingly vocal over planned cuts, it is entirely plausible that other public sector workers could follow the teachers in staging strikes across the nation.

However, teachers must be aware that they find themselves in a very similar position to millions in the private sector, many of whom have lost their benefit and pension schemes. It is unreasonable to expect people earning less than those in the public sector to subsidise better pensions than they themselves can afford.

Indeed, teachers can hardly say they are poorly paid; those days are very much in the past. Furthermore, they have much longer holidays than the average person in the private sector, and have incredibly generous job security. With the Labour government quite rightly investing significantly into education over the years, we have seen salaries rise in order to attract the best people to train our children.

With children exiting school with few transferable life skills, there are huge deficiencies in the system for which the profession needs to shoulder at least some of the blame. Neither the public nor private sectors are immune from the disease of ineffectual educators.

It is time for teachers and indeed the whole of the public sector to accept the realities of an austere world, and to recognise that a more affordable and indeed fairer way of funding their retirement needs to be found.

It should also be noted that the NUT's motion to strike only passed with a 40% turnout. With much of the public believes that the public sector is full of overpaid, lazy and incompetent workers, it is highly doubtful that strike action will be widely supported. If strike proceed in Autumn, it seems likely that coalition will impose a 50% turnout threshold before a strike is legal. The public sector needs to wake up and realise that at the moment, there is little alternative.

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hayley jane Posted on Friday 18 Jan 2019

Whilst the writer of this article has some valid points, I must correct them on a few. Firstly as a teacher who is part of the teacher pension scheme I can state without doubt that my pension is not publicly funded. My pension contributions fund it plus a percentage of my annual salary which is donated by my employer. Now don't go thinking that the public funds that. The employer contribution is taken into account when salaries are set and therefore are deducted from potential salaries. May I also point out that I pay a large percentage of my wages to taxes and national insurance which in turn keeps a large percentage of this population on benefits and in free housing, not to mention the fact that I am paying for the state pension of current and future low income or no income pensioners. Finally I would like to point out that the national curriculum is set by the government. The teaching profession can only teach what they are directed to. Therefore if anyone is to be held to account for an irrelevant curriculum it should be the government. Also the current curriculum was endorsed by the labour government and the current powers that be do not endorse it at all. So now we are in limbo! National strategies withdrawn and nothing to replace them with. I fully support a teacher's right to strike as I would any other profession. You should too if u value ur civil rights.


Cathryn Posted on Friday 18 Jan 2019

i love this, no school on thursday for me!


Holly Posted on Friday 18 Jan 2019

I think that if you are in fact a teacher it is scary that you feel the need to use "u" instead of you and "ur" instead of your. No wonder children are leaving school unable to read and write.


Zeralle Posted on Friday 18 Jan 2019

I don't have any school either and my little bro does!!! So me and my twin sister are going to the cinema whilst our mum is at home with our little sister (nursery teachers on strike) and our little bro is at school! My mum is SOOOOOO mad because she's had to take a day off work for this UNPAID. I don't think it's fair although i love having time off school my mum's a single parent and we're ages 14, 14, 5, 3 so then we don't get any money and money's tight at the minute anyway.


Wendy Jones Posted on Friday 18 Jan 2019

Hayley Jane.....
I've just been told our school will close next week, what about the civil rights of working parents who will NOT be paid next week for missing work? Strike should be last resort, not the first. I've got no leave entitlement left & no family near by to look after my 3 school age children. I have no idea how sympathic my employer will be, but he wont take my civil rights into consideration - that's for sure. I will lose a day's pay as 100,000's of people will next week.


Neil Posted on Friday 18 Jan 2019

Why should teachers be any different to anybody else. My company have just announced that they will be scrapping final pension for every employee and from the daily news they are not the only company who are scrapping them. We are not going on strike and have to accept it.
As for the strike just another excuse for a day off. People with kids have take the day off to look after our children. The education of our children is far more important than a strike. Why cant the teachers strike during the 6 week holiday? Maybe they will be abroad on holiday lapping up the sun.


hayley jane Posted on Friday 18 Jan 2019

Holly I am a teacher but I am using my phone to post comments. Therefore I am writing things the quick way! Lol. And I actually have a masters degree too. I also must point out that it is not possible to change a child's intellect. There is such a thing as an IQ which is predetermined from birth in most cases. And zarelle if your mum has kids I understand that its hard to find childcare but a responsible parent should have contigency plans for occasions such as these. School is not a babysitting service.


hayley jane Posted on Friday 18 Jan 2019

Actually the current pension system was reformed less than 2 yrs ago and it is not a final salary scheme for anyone who signed up in the past ten years I believe. The exact terms vary depending on your age and when you signed up for your pension. The pension equates to an average of ten thousand a year per teacher once you retire. Decent but not gold plated I think you will agree. That works out at below the poverty line if you relied on that alone. Final salary scheme is a myth which comes from the olden days I'm afraid. I only wish I could get 30 000 a year for nothing! Lol. And the nut's decision to strike was taken after negotiations failed. I myself am not striking as my union is pursuing this through the courts instead. However I still support those who do. As I would any employee in any industry. It would be a sad world if we didn't support our fellow workers. As for holidays - I'm intrigued. When do you think teachers plan, mark and assess children? Oh and when do you think they set up their classrooms, put up displays, sort out and make resources? Certaily not between the hours of nine and three. I work 12 hour days usually. And at least 2 thirds of my holiday allowance is used for school work. I don't complain because its part and parcel of the job. And it's a job which gives me great pleasure and satisfaction. Working with children makes it worthwhile - pension or no pension.


A.Politician Posted on Friday 18 Jan 2019

Unions playing power games again - it's all about money.

We see it in London every year - tube drivers on PS30k strike to get their wages increased yet pretend they are worried about "safety concerns".

The leader of the ATL doesn't want to negotiate otherwise the strike ballot wouldn't have occurred so early.

Strikes 5 or 6 years ago came about because the unions hated Blair and felt he had 'sold out' the Labour movement by ditching unelectable left-wing ideas.

Strikes in the coming years will happen because the unions hate the Tories.

Politics is the reason why these strikes will happen - nothing at all about individual teachers - which explains why so few turned out to vote for strike action....most teachers don't see themselves as left-wing revolutionaries, they see themselves as just teachers.


J Posted on Friday 18 Jan 2019

Sigh... I always think it's slightly hypocritical from Unions when you see headlines like these:

"Union boss planning to lead a mass walkout of teachers pockets 10 per cent pay rise"


Robert Green Posted on Friday 18 Jan 2019

@ A. Politician

I couldn't disagree with you more, the unions aren't merely striking because they hate the Tories, the changes to the pension scheme are a fundamental change to individuals lifestyles including those in my own family. My father whose 55 has worked in the public sector all his life and has now suddenly found out he's retiring later, for less pension yet is contributing more to that pension. Does he not have the right to be pissed off about this?

There is such a thing as accrued rights, having the tables suddenly turned on you where you're nearing retirement would be a bitter blow to any individual. The Tories also released there final offer for public sector pensions in the Telegraph before they had even entered talks with the major unions, so I don't think you can pretend the Tories aren't playing politics as well.

Also, I do hate the race to the bottom when it comes to pensions and pay, the private sector pension provisions are poor therefore the public sector pensions should be screwed as well? How about workers in the private sector actually get some balls and campaign for better rights? Or is it easier to sit around moaning about the public sector?

Finally, the voter turnout for unions is low, but the turnout is even worse on average for general elections. The Tories themselves only got 36% of the vote at the last election and only 65% of the population voted. Therefore can any major political party use low voter turnout as a excuse? It is incredibly hypocritical, especially since governments in this country are usually elected on less than 50% of the popular vote. You may argue that everyone is allowed to vote in general elections, but the same thing is true of trade unions, every member is allowed to vote yes or no for strike action, if they choose not to vote then that's their problem.


A.Carefulreader Posted on Friday 18 Jan 2019

"Unions playing power games again - it's all about money."
"Politics is the reason why these strikes will happen."

Well, which one is it?


Howard Posted on Friday 18 Jan 2019

"We see it in London every year - tube drivers on PS30k strike to get their wages increased "

A tube driver in London is actually on PS42k.


anne hancox Posted on Friday 18 Jan 2019

I value teachers but they dont realise how lucky they are and that taxpayers are funding them.
They work only half the year and get all the school holidays off but get paid ALL 52 weeks of the year.
They get paid much more than workers in the private sector
They have jobs for life as it is almost impossible to sack an underperforming teacher.
They have goldplated fat cat pensions worth between half a million to 1.5million pounds which is paid for by people like us paying tax who will get no pension.
They get 6 months full paid sick leave whenever they want it.
It is time for their nice little gravy train to end as it has for all of us normal working people


Champagne Conservative Posted on Friday 18 Jan 2019

^So it's fine to bash teachers for having a pleasant work/life balance?
The fact that your career of choice happens to have stripped you of all sympathy for your fellow beings isn't a reason to be such an odious, tabloid-parrotting ass.

Teachers are "fat cats"? Have you seen their salary scales? It's hardly a profession one enters to get rich.

More to the point, since when have "jobs for life" necessarily been a bad thing? Has the market orthodoxy robbed you of your capacity for critical thought?


Dan Posted on Friday 18 Jan 2019

So many lies, half truths and assumptions about teachers, our pay and conditions and what we are striking about. All of you on here who are bashing teachers, why don't you educate yourselves about what we are annoyed about rather than snapping up all the right wing bait left by the tory press? (I'm talking to you anne hancox - any experience of being a teacher by the way?! Didn't think so!)

Yes the private sector have had their pensions ruined. Why on Earth is that a reason to ensure teacher's pensions are ruined as well? Even in the much quoted Hutton report, it states that there should not be a "race to the bottom." Before you all say: but we pay for your pension - no you don't!! As Hayley Jane tried to explain to you (before someone had a go at her for putting u instead of you!!) we fund our own pensions. We want the Goverment to undertake a fully independent review of the teacher's pension scheme to see where these supposed shortfalls are. But they won't. Because it is much easier to take money off teachers to pay the deficit off quicker and pit us against sheep like you that buy the whole "Gold plated public sector pensions " (again Hutton rebukes this in his report). As an earlier poster noted, it's a shame that private sector workers didn't show a TENTH of the anger (jealousy?) that they are currently demonstrating at the public sector, at their bosses in the 90s and early 00s. Did your boss and CEO lose their pensions??

As for the dig about the poor standard of education. Cheap shot. You try and keep the ship afloat when, for the last 30 years, education has been a political football with constant goalpost changing and initiatives. It always amuses me that, in our society, everyone and his dog can say what is up with education and its faults apart from the teachers! If the politics is taken out and education is left to us, you watch it go.

I love my job. I love educating children and try my absolute best to give thought provoking, inspiring lessons. Here is a newsflash for some of you: that would not happen if I worked 8.30 - 3.30 every day, with a full weekend and 12 weeks holiday off. Sure, I get lots of holiday compared to most workers (which I don't get paid for actually - another myth busted!) I will not go on and earn 50 60 grand plus like other PROFESSIONALS that I went to uni with and that is fine. I knew what I was signing up for. This Goverment want to change the rules and make us pay for their mistakes. It is not fair and we have the absolute right to strike - just like any other worker that can unionise and find their backsides with a map. Good night!


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