Schools and universities across London will face disruption later as two of the biggest education unions stage a one-day strike against cuts to teachers and lecturers’ pensions.
The National Union of Teachers and University and College Union are staging a walkout against the government’s changes to pensions. Many schools in the capital will be closed for some or all lessons. Schools Minister Nick Gibb said: “Strikes benefit no-one.” Parents across the capital had been told by head teachers about plans to close or reduce lessons during the one-day walkout.
In some schools this has meant that younger pupils will be at home while lessons continue for older year groups with approaching exams and tests.
The teachers and lecturers are planning to march and then hold a rally outside the Department for Education. Christine Blower, the NUT’s general secretary, says the proposed increase in pension contributions represents an extra tax on teachers – which she contrasts with the cut in the top rate of income tax for the highest earners.
“Teachers cannot be expected to do anything other than defend the right to a pension which they have paid into in good faith and which the government has shown no evidence that they are either unsustainable or unaffordable,” said Ms Blower. “It is the government’s intransigence and total disregard of the facts that has forced teachers to continue with this action,” she said.
Sally Hunt, leader of the UCU lecturers’ union, said that her members were “unlikely militants” who took no pleasure in striking.
“However, it is not fair for ordinary people to suffer huge cuts in their standards of living at a time when the government is handing out huge tax giveaways to big business and high earners.”
The one-day action in London follows a national strike over the pension reforms staged by education staff last November, which closed a majority of schools. Schools Minister Nick Gibb said: “This deal is as good as it gets and takes the right balance – guaranteeing teachers one of the best pensions available, but keeping a lid on rising costs for the taxpayer.
“We’ve been in serious talks for months with unions to address their concerns and reach a final settlement. This strike, ordered by the NUT’s leaders, will not now get its members any further forward.
“Reforms to public sector pensions are essential – the status quo is not an option. The cost to the taxpayer of teacher pensions is already forecast to double from £5bn in 2006 to £10bn in 2016 and will carry on rising rapidly as life expectancy continues to rocket.”