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vrijdag, april 06, 2012

Teachers consider further strikes

Demonstration on 28 March 2012London teachers were on strike over pensions on 28 March

Members of two of the main teaching unions will consider an escalation of strike action over pay and pensions when they meet this weekend.

Delegates from the National Union of Teachers and the NASUWT are holding their annual conferences.

They have already taken action over pensions changes and are angry about proposals for regional pay rates.

The government says reform of public sector pensions is vital, particularly as people are living longer.

The present deal, it says, is "as good as it gets".

Before Christmas, it announced its changes would not affect those within 10 years of retirement, but the unions remain strongly opposed, saying their members will have to work longer for less money.

The two unions meeting this weekend have already taken strike action over pensions alongside other unions in walkouts which closed about two-thirds of schools in the UK in November.

Since then, the NUT has begun what it says is its next stage of protests on the issue - local industrial action - often linked with other public sector workers.

On 28 March, union members went on strike in many London schools, with disruption in 60% of them. About one in five of the capital's schools was closed, the government said.

NASUWT (The National Association of Schoolmasters-Union of Women Teachers) moved from strike action in November to a work-to-rule.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education 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.

"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."

She added that any decisions about regional pay were far in to the future so it would be premature to talk about industrial action.

Independent experts had been asked to look at this, she said.

Coalition changes

Delegates at the two conferences are also set to show anger at a range of government polices which are bringing many changes to schools.

Those from England will attack some of the key changes made since the coalition came to power nearly two years ago.

Delegates will focus on the moves to get more schools to become academies - schools which are outside local authority control - and the creation of free schools.

Figures released on Thursday show there are now 1,776 academies open and that 40% of secondary schools now have this status. When the coalition came to power, there were just 200 academies.

The unions say the change is breaking up the state school system and will lead to a lack of co-ordinated planning.

Ministers say that such changes will give head teachers freedom to make decisions that are right for their pupils and drive up standards.

Teachers at the NUT will hear calls to scrap England's schools inspectorate Ofsted and criticism of the government in England's plans to make it easier for head teachers to remove poor teachers.

The unions say the changes are a "bully's charter", the government that they will simplify a bureaucratic system.

The general secretary of the NASUWT, Chris Keates, said: "This conference will be a referendum on the coalition government's performance so far and it will undoubtedly be found deeply wanting.

"The depth of anger and frustration is evident in the motions balloted by members for debate.

"There has been no respite from the attacks on every aspect of a teacher's working life."

The changes to teachers' pensions is an issue which affects all parts of the UK.

Union leaders say other issues to be debated at the conferences - such as workload - are also shared by teachers across the country.


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