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Taking a stand: Union leaders hand over the petition to schools minister Nick Gibb (left) during the lobby of Parliament

Teachers take protest to Westminster

In the entrance hall of the Depart- ment for Education in central Lon- don last month, schools minister Nick Gibb was handed a petition signed by more than 154,000 teach- ers opposed to pension reforms. It happened as thousands of

teachers from across the UK descended on Westminster to lobby Parliament in the ongoing row over pension cuts. Thousands more stayed in

their local areas and lobbied their MPs’ constituency offi ces during the nationwide day of protest on Wednesday, October 26. The joint campaign, entitled

Decent Pensions: Securing the Future for All, was organised by the Association of School and College Leaders, Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), NASUWT, National Union of Teachers (NUT), University and College Union, and Undeb Cenedlaethol Athrawon Cymru. The lobby in London began

shortly after Prime Minister’s Questions when the protestors knew that all MPs would be in Westminster. They gathered in the Methodist Central Hall nearby and had been encouraged during the day to try and seek meetings with their local MPs to get the pen- sions message across. Teachers continue to be angry

at a raft of changes that will hit the value of their pensions. Plans include scrapping the teachers’ final salary pension scheme and replacing it with a scheme linked to average career earnings and raising

the retirement age for teachers to 66 in 2020 and then to 68. This is on top of increasing

employee contributions by 50 per cent from 6.4 per cent to 9.6 per cent by 2014. In addition, the government has

already changed the annual infl a- tion-linked pension increase from the Retail Price Index (RPI) to the lower Consumer Price Index (CPI), which it is claimed will devalue pensions by up to 25 per cent. The lobby comes ahead of

planned strike action on November 30. The TUC has called the day of action which will involve workers across the public sector. The NUT and the ATL have already pledged to strike. The NASUWT is ballot- ing at the moment for strike action. The NAHT, while not being

a TUC-affiliated union, has also said it would strike on November 30 if its current ballot of members returns a yes vote. Speaking to Headteacher

Update on the day of the lobby, NAHT general secretary, Russell Hobby, slammed the government for its reluctance to negotiate. He continued: “The signatures

show that it’s not union bosses get- ting militant because it’s their job, it’s real teachers and support staff in schools and colleges taking it seriously and hopefully the minis- ters will respond to that. “(The negotiations) have been

really poor, really bad nego- tiations. To be talking for nine months before you get (given) a cost ceiling is just a complete waste of time. We have only start- ed seeing real negotiations in the

past fortnight or so and this has come partly as a result of this demonstration. They’ve realised people will not put up with these cuts.”

Mr Gibb said: “We do under-

stand and that’s why we are all negotiating to get a new settlement that’s fair to taxpayers and fair to teachers.”


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Photos: Lucie Carlier

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