From education to employment

Proposals to cut pensions by 23%, unamimous vote for joint action

Lecturers in colleges and new universities will consider the use of strike action in conjunction with other public sector unions as part of their campaign to protect their pensions – which they say could be reduced by as much as 23% under government proposals.

The national executive committee (NEC) of NATFHE-The University & College Lecturers Union, voted unanimously on Friday (10 December) to adopt a policy to defend and improve lecturers pensions by intensifying its campaigning, using methods which could include joint union strike action.

Members of the union would be balloted on any such plan but the motion gives NATFHEs leaders authority to consider a ballot if there is momentum for joint union action.

The deadline for a government consultation on teachers pensions closed (on Friday 10 December) this week, leaving thousands of teaching professional in schools, colleges and new universities wondering about the future of their pensions. The consultation, by the Department for Education and Science (DfES) has sought views on a number of possible changes to the Teachers Pension Scheme (TPS). The DfES says its aim is to modernise the scheme to give teachers greater choice and more flexibility to plan ahead for their retirement.

NATFHE believes that such improvements as are proposed by the government do not compensate for the overall deterioration which the proposals would lead to in lecturers” pension benefits. NATFHE:

“¢ opposes an increase of the normal retirement age from 60 to 65 (for new entrants from 2006 and for existing teachers in service from 2013).

“¢ rejects the proposed increase in the minimum age of retirement from 50 to 55 years of age; the union says many teaching professionals currently retire on ill health grounds before 60 and working pressures are increasing

“¢ believes the vast majority of lecturers would have an overall reduction in pension benefit compared with retiring at 60 under the current scheme.

NATFHE supports government proposals which would automatically extend the pension scheme to part-time lecturers and provide the right for individuals to nominate unmarried partners for survivors” benefits. But it says the overall proposals won”t do much to end the pensions inequality for women.

Like other teaching unions, NATFHE has encouraged its members to take part in the recent consultation. Members are also being urged to write to their MPs.

NATFHE will be represented at a meeting of the TUC on Monday (December 13) at which further TUC action on pensions will be considered. The decision by NATFHEs NEC ensures that it will be able to support any proposal to explore joint union strike action.

John Wilkin, vice president of NATFHE, a lecturer at Coventry University, said:

The formal consultation on teachers pensions has just ended but the campaign to protect the pensions of teaching professionals and other public sector workers is just beginning. Pensions are deferred pay and we are not going to sit by and watch the pensions of future colleagues be reduced by up to 23% – that would be a considerable wage-cut and it is not acceptable.

NATFHE general secretary Paul Mackney, said:

We want the government to withdraw the proposed increase in the normal retirement age and to bring forward a scheme that meets the needs of all teachers and lecturers. Todays vote will enable NATFHE to support efforts to bring the maximum pressure to bear on the government.

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