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Unions pledge pensions action on November 30

Issue 293 • September 22 2011 Price £1.00

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The government is facing the “biggest trade union mobilisation for a generation” after the Trades Union Congress (TUC) called a day of action over pensions. The date has been set for

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November 30 after an “urgent meeting” was held at the TUC’s annual conference to discuss the ongoing negotiations with govern- ment over changes to public sector pensions. TUC members, which include a

number of major teaching and sup- port staff unions, have been told to take whatever action they consider “most appropriate” on the day. Speaking to SecEd this week,

none of the TUC member educa- tion unions ruled out strike action. If they all walk out, it could mean hundreds of thousands of school staff manning picket lines. Unions are still furious about

the government’s proposals for public sector pensions, including the scrapping of the teachers’ final salary pension link and raising the retirement age for teachers to 66 in 2020 and then later to 68. This is on top of increasing

employee contributions by 50 per cent from by 2014. This will be phased in from April with plans already laid out for the first rise. In addition, the government has

changed the annual inflation-linked pension increase from the Retail Price Index to the Consumer Price Index, which has devalued pensions by up to 25 per cent. Seven education unions have

already joined forces to hold a pro- test at Parliament during half-term on October 26. This could see as many as 25,000 school staff present.

Day of action: Teachers join the pensions rally in London on June 30. Scenes like this could be repeated on November 30 However, speaking at the

TUC last week, general secretary Brendan Barber warned that if all its public sector union members decided to take strike action on November 30, it would be the “big- gest trade union mobilisation for a generation”. A TUC statement later said that

the move was down to the govern- ment’s refusal to negotiate its posi- tion on pensions and confirmed what form the action on November 30 might take. It states: “(Action) would range

from strike action, where ballot mandates have been secured from members and unions judge that appropriate, through to lunchtime meetings, rallies and joint events with community groups and service users.” The statement also hints that

more disruption could follow. “Further consideration is being

given to what further action may be appropriate beyond the day of

action if progress towards a settle- ment is not secured. A meeting will be held before the end of September to receive reports from unions on plans being made.” TUC member unions within

education include the NASUWT, National Union of Teachers (NUT), Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), University and College Union (UCU), and UNISON, which represents support staff. The NUT, ATL and UCU all

walked out in the first pensions strike on June 30. However, NASUWT last week announced that it is to bal- lot its members to obtain a mandate for industrial action. General secretary Chris Keates

told SecEd: “We are preparing for industrial action during this term. The November 30 date will be factored into our preparations, as action across all public services would be a powerful statement in defence of public services.”

Dr Mary Bousted, ATL general

secretary, confirmed their participa- tion on November 30. The union’s national executive is to decide what form this action should take. It could include “activities such as rallies or lunchtime meetings, or a strike if the government refuses to negotiate in good faith”. UNISON meanwhile is ballot-

ing its members, including 200,000 school support staff, for industrial action, and if this is approved they will strike on November 30. At NUT, general secretary

Christine Blower told SecEd: “We are working with all other teaching unions on a petition of teachers and a lobby of Parliament on October 26, which we see as the last chance for government to start meaningful negotiations. If it fails the NUT will join other unions on November 30.” The UCU is also not ruling out

strikes and is “committed” to the day of action to defend pensions. Elsewhere, the National

Association of Head Teachers, a union outside the TUC, has already issued ballots to its members with the results expected soon. General secretary Russell Hobby

said: “It is quite likely that we would choose that day (November 30), assuming a successful ballot, as our members have been clear that they would prefer to work with other teaching unions. But nothing has been finalised.” The Association of School and

College Leaders, also a non-TUC union, told SecEd that it currently has no plans to join the day of action. The news comes after Welsh edu-

cation union UCAC announced that its 4,000 members will walkout on October 5. A Department for Education

spokesman said: “Any industrial action harms pupils’ learning, inconveniences parents and dam- ages teachers’ professional reputa- tion. We urge union leadership to step back from this course.”

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