Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Pensions - Emergency Conference on January 7

Organising Conference Saturday: Friends Meeting House
(opp. Euston Station) 7th January 2012
11am – 4pm

Chair: Janice Godrich PCS President

Speakers: Mark Serwotka PCS General Secretary
John McDonnell MP
Kevin Courtney DGS NUT (personal capacity)
Roger Bannister UNISON NEC (personal capacity)
Mark Campbell UCU NEC (personal capacity)
Zita Holbourne BARAC
Kevin Donnelly Unite United Left

Monday, 26 December 2011

What the pensions 'offer' meant: - pay more, get less, retire older

The NASUWT website contains a link to the ‘offer’ that was presented to the education unions before Christmas – and that both the NUT and NASUWT refused to sign. You can read it for yourself on:

I am sure that NUT and NASUWT pensions experts will be able to provide teachers with some precise modelling to update the 'pensions calculators' and to rebuff the false claims that the Government have been making. For now, this is what I think the different clauses in the 'Heads of Agreement' meant:
1 i) Unions must agree to no more strike action while the ‘deal’ is being finalised = AGREE  TO GIVE-UP THE WEAPON THAT REALLY THREATENS US,  and
ii) If you want a better accrual rate (i.e a bigger amount set aside each year to improve pension payouts), you’ll have to pay for it by a worse indexation rate (cutting pension payouts), because we’re not putting any more money into the scheme (see 3 below)  = THERE IS NO MORE MONEY ON THE TABLE SO THERE CAN BE NO REAL CONCESSIONS.
2a.  The final-salary scheme will be replaced by a career-average-scheme. Because of the way that career-average schemes work, this change will mean a much smaller pension unless the new ‘accrual rate’ is considerably better than the 1/60 rate that applies in the existing final-salary scheme for new entrants (for example, the Nuvos career-average scheme negotiated in 2006 for the civil service has a much better rate of 1/43) ...
b.     ... but they only propose a marginal improvement to a rate of 1/57. A full calculation and modelling needs to be done to show exactly how much pensions would be cut as a result (and should have been done before any union agreed) but it = WE GET LESS PENSION.
c.      Career-averages have to be linked to some kind of indexation to bring past salaries in line with today’s prices. In November, the Government were proposing the link was with average earnings.  Now they have changed that to CPI + 1.6% – and they have also calculated that this would mean a cut in scheme costs. i.e. = WE GET LESS PENSION.
d.     Normal Pension Age will equal the State Pension Age = WE RETIRE OLDER.
This is worse than was on offer in November because Osborne announced in his Autumn Statement that the increase in State Pension Age will now hit more workers. Instead of having to be born after 5 April 1969 to see your State Pension Age rise to 67, now anyone born after 6 April 1961 will now not get to retire on their full pension until they are 67 or older. For younger workers, it will be 68. The Government wants to increase this even further beyond 68 in future. Negotiators had been discussing if a deal could be reached that would set teachers’ pension ages beneath the State Pension Age. In December, the Government took any such possible compromise off the table.
e.     Pensions in payment to increase in line with the CPI = WE GET LESS PENSION.  The NUT will be appealing against the court ruling that the Government was justified in switching from the higher RPI to the lower CPI Index but, if the courts again find against us, this will mean around a 15% cut in pensions paid out over retirement.
f.       Benefits earned in deferment to increase in line with CPI, also = WE GET LESS PENSION
g.      Average member contributions of 9.6% = WE PAY MORE, while our real pay is cut again. These are the same pay cuts that have been displayed on the NUT pensions calculator for some time. The increases will be phased in from April 2012, the full impact being in place from April 2014. For a UPS3 teacher in Inner London, they mean a £48 monthly pay cut in 2012 (£30 in England/Wales), and a £123 monthly cut in 2014 (£74 in E/W).
h.     to k. (partner pension, death in service, ill-health etc. – same as in current scheme)
l.       “Actuarially fair early/late retirement factors on a cost-neutral basis except for those retiring earlier than their NPA at age 65, 66 and 67, who will have early retirement factors of 3% per year (relative to their NPA)” = WE GET LESS PENSION if you don’t work on until new, higher, normal pension ages. The only slight concession offered  here is that, instead of losing around 5% of your pension for every year you retire before your NPA, the Government will kindly only steal 3% per year from you if you decide to retire at 65-67. This will still mean a big loss of your pension if you decide you can’t struggle on to 67 or 68 but need to take your pension earlier. If you decide to retire at 65, when your NPA to get a full pension is 68, you would still lose 9% of your entitlements. The Government know most of us can’t struggle on until 68 – so they can rob our pensions.
m.   “An employer cost cap to provide backstop protection to the taxpayer against unforeseen costs and risks” (In other words, if they decide that we are living longer, the employers won’t have to pay more – the extra costs will be borne by us, the employees).
3.     “The gross cost ceiling has been fixed at 21.7%” = WE PAY IN MORE, THEY PAY IN LESS! Employees’ contributions will be going up to an average 9.6% from the existing 6.4% - a 50% increase. To total 21.7%, that means employers’ contributions will be going down from 14.1% to 12.1%. No wonder Danny Alexander bragged in Parliament that his proposals will make pensions "substantially more affordable to alternative providers" - paving the way for further privatisation by driving down the cost of our pensions.
6.     “Teachers who, as of 1 April 2012, have 10 years or less to their current pension age will see no change in when they can retire, nor any decrease in the amount of pension they receive at their current Normal Pension Age”. This is simply the ’10-year protection” that was offered – and rightly rejected as being insufficient – back in November. Even these teachers would still have to pay in more from 2012 and get less in retirement due to CPI.
7.     “Members who are within a further 3.5 years of their Normal Pension Age, i.e. up to 13.5 years from their NPA will have limited protection”. This was the only slight further concession giving some protection to teachers aged between 46½ and 50 by April 2012.   The Government’s figures show about 60% of teachers would get no protection at all.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Emergency Conference to Organise Against Pensions Retreat - Jan 7

I have received this invitation from the PCS Left Unity National Committee - please attend and forward to your colleagues:

Organising Conference:

Friends Meeting House (opp. Euston Station)
Saturday 7th January 2012 11am – 4pm

Chair: Janice Godrich PCS President
Main Speaker: Mark Serwotka PCS General Secretary
(other speakers to be announced)

November 30th was the biggest show of strength from Britain’s trade unions in living memory. It shook the coalition government and provided a firm foundation for the escalation of industrial action to defeat the unjustified attack on pensions and to challenge the coalition’s pay freeze, cuts and privatisation programme.

At the TUC’s Public Sector Liaison Group Mark Serwotka on behalf on PCS argued the TUC should set the date for a further day of nationally coordinated strike action to bring the government into serious negotiations. Although there was some support for this position the TUC general secretary Brendan Barber argued that all the unions should sign up to a so-called “Heads of Agreement”, this means the core issues, on which we took action, working longer, paying more and getting less, are surrendered, just as the government have wanted. Dave Prentis, the general secretary of Unison, argued for acceptance of this “deal”.

It is almost beyond belief that when the confidence of the movement is at its highest point in decades as a result of November 30th and with an additional 100,000 recruits due to the action such an abject surrender is being considered. Now is the time to set the date, as early as possible in 2012, preferably January, for a further day of nationally coordinated industrial action which can be escalated by bringing even more unions on board including workers, like those in Unilever, fighting to defend private sector pensions. 

The PCS Left Unity National Committee invites all activists from all unions to an organising conference on the 7th of January to debate how we can build the campaign to defend our pensions and fight the cuts and prevent any unacceptable “deal” that makes us work longer, pay more and get less.

This will be an organising conference, not just a debating forum. It is intended to arm activists with the issues so they can go back to their workplaces and into their unions in order to build a campaign that will secure justice on pensions.

To cover costs there will be a registration fee of £5 for waged delegates.


Pensions - Organise to Reject the Shoddy 'Deal'

The decision by the leaders of the main Local Government and Health unions like UNISON and GMB - and others like the ATL - to sign-up to the ‘Heads of Agreement’ on pensions is a sorry capitulation to Government pressure.

Just as, once again, another report reveals how big firms are getting away with billions of pounds of tax avoidance, trade union leaders have accepted cuts to the livelihoods of millions of workers who, once again, are expected to pay the price for a crisis that was none of our making.

If this deal is allowed to go through, it also risks encouraging this Government to accelerate all its other attacks on jobs, conditions and public services. In Parliament, Danny Alexander made absolutely clear that his proposals
will make pensions "substantially more affordable to alternative providers" - paving the way for the further privatisation that was always a key driver to these pension cuts.

Fortunately, not every union leader has shown the same lack of backbone. The main education unions, NUT, NASUWT, UCU – along with UCAC in Wales and EIS in Scotland – have refused to sign-up by the imposed deadline. The PCS rejected the deal outright – and have the support of others like NIPSA. UNITE did not sign-up to the deal in Health after details of the proposals were shared with – and rejected – by their Health Sector National Committee.

While the weak-willed leaders will try to claim that they have won important ‘concesssions’, Danny Alexander’s assurance to Parliament yesterday reveals the truth, that the Government will still be able to make the planned "tens of billions of pounds" of savings if the ‘deal’ goes through,. The overall ‘cost-ceiling’ budget imposed for the schemes has not been lifted, so that any ‘concessions’ could only be paid for by worsening of arrangements somewhere else.

For example, UNISON have claimed improved 'accrual rates' - the rate at which pension benefits are built up – as a victory. But Alexander made clear to MPs that any improvement would be offset by a lower revaluation linked to prices rather than earnings. Or, as he put in bluntly: "These agreements deliver the government's key objectives in full, and do so with no new money since our November offer".

The sorry truth is that those union leaders have signed up to deals which are only marginally different to those which were correctly rejected in November and against which millions of workers took united strike action. The underlying principles of the ‘Heads of Agreement’ deals are brutally clear – public sector workers must pay more, to get less pension and to retire older. How can any serious trade union leader accept them?

Once the truth is revealed, and trade union members see how their pay and pensions are being cut, there will be real anger against leaders who have caved-in so easily. However, the Government hope that a deal can be rushed through before opposition from below can put a stop to it.

There is now an urgent need to campaign in every union for a rejection of the deal. Already it is reported that the Local Government unions are questioning what has been agreed after Eric Pickles sent a letter that apparently announced new conditions about limits to employers' contributions - meaning that employees' contributions would have to rise.

When the NASUWT and NUT Executives meet in early January to discuss the proposals, they must be opposed. In doing so, we must also confirm plans for further action alongside other unions in the New Year. At least now the stark reality will be clear to all – we fight on or we allow the Government to get away with their robbery of our hard-earned pensions.

As a key part of that urgent campaign, Left Unity in PCS, the union that has stood firmest against the proposals, has organised an emergency conference in London on Saturday January 7th in Friends Meeting House, Euston at 11 am. Mark Serwotka will be one of the main speakers. Everyone who is serious about defending our pensions against the Government’s attacks should try and be there.

Monday, 19 December 2011

NUT Pensions Statement - NUT have NOT signed up to any deal

Update: I understand that four education unions refused to sign the deal today but are all 'reserving their position' until talks continue in the New Year - that's NASUWT, UCAC and UCU as well as the NUT.

NUT PRESS RELEASE: Teachers’ Pension Scheme - talks to continue in the New Year

Commenting on the latest round of Teachers’ Pension Scheme talks, Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union said:

“Following lengthy discussions today the NUT was not able to sign up to the Government’s headline proposals. There was insufficient progress in terms of the Government’s position that teachers should work longer, pay more and get less.

In the NUT we reserved our position due to lack of progress but also the lack of documentation in certain critical areas.

“The NUT National Executive will meet in January to take a view on progress in the negotiations and next steps in our campaign.

“The Union remains committed to negotiations and will take part in talks in the New Year.

The following message will also be going on to NUT members tomorrow:

Pensions latest – update on talks with Government

Dear colleague

Despite the lengthy discussions over the last few days, the current proposals from the Government still do not address all of the NUT’s concerns. The Government still wants you to work longer, pay more and get less.

Under these circumstances the NUT has not been able to sign up to the Government’s headline proposals. In the New Year we expect to receive further documentation from the Government, which we hope will clarify the latest offer. We will keep you fully informed of how these proposals will impact on your pension entitlements.

The NUT will continue to represent your interests in the negotiations, as well as pursuing the court case over the RPI/CPI change.

Your National Executive will meet in January (January 12) to take a view on progress in the negotiations so far and next steps in our campaign, including any further proposals on industrial action.

Thanks to the many thousands of NUT members who signed Christmas postcards to Michael Gove. I was proud to deliver those to the DfE yesterday, with our Deputy General Secretary, Kevin Courtney. That so many of you signed them is a clear sign of the strength of feeling in the profession. Even since yesterday more than a 1,000 more signatures have arrived at our head office. Please see our website for a picture of yesterday’s hand-in of the postcards at the DfE.
Please continue to check the NUT website and follow us on Twitter at for more information on the pensions campaign in the New Year.

I wish you a very well-deserved holiday.

With best wishes for Christmas and the New Year.

Yours sincerely

Christine Blower
NUT General Secretary

Pensions - Union leaders under pressure from all sides

A lively lobby of the TUC this afternoon made sure that every delegate attending the key meeting of the Public Sector Liaison Group knew how strongly trade union members felt about the worrying suggestions that some public sector unions were about to sign an unacceptable deal on pensions.


On the steps of Congress House, Mark Serwotka made a strong defence of the PCS' stand in refusing to cave-in to the bullying tactics of the Government. Unfortunately reports suggest that some unions seem ready to sign-up to the 'Heads of Agreement' letter setting out the principles of the Government offer, even though none of the fundamentals have changed from the offer that we all rejected in November - and took united strike action to oppose.

The Government has been trying to blackmail union leaders into signing-up to this unacceptable deal by threatening that if they didn't, an even worse offer would be imposed - and that those unions that didn't cave-in would be thrown out of all future talks. This 'punishment' has apparently already been announced for the PCS.

But union chiefs seeking to do a deal are also under pressure from below - knowing that they will have to justify their decision to union members who will want to know why they have thrown in the towel when no serious further concessions have been won. Where the details of the deal have been shared - e.g with the Health Sector National Committee of UNITE - it is reported that there was an overwhelming view given to the negotiators that they must reject the deal.

In Education, talks have been going on for much of the day, with the NUT and NASUWT apparently trying to persuade other education unions to stand firm. News to follow.

URGENT - Pensions lies and game playing - LOBBY TUC FROM 3.30 TODAY

A deliberate game of lies and game-playing is being played by Government Ministers and the press to try and undermine opposition to their pensions robbery in order to try and bully unions into accepting a shoddy deal today when the joint-union Public Sector Liaison Group meets at the TUC at a newly-confirmed time of 5pm today.


This morning, the BBC has withdrawn a quote from its website claiming that Christine Blower had said that the NUT was 'close to a deal'. This is all part of the game-playing designed to isolate unions - including the NUT - who are standing firm against the acceptance of an unacceptable deal.

Christine has issued a statement saying that "Some colleagues may have seen a report on the BBC website by Norman Smith which quotes me as saying that ‘a deal is close with the Government on teachers’ pensions’. In fact, on entering the talks I said teachers cannot work longer, pay more and get less - I made no such claim on a potential resolution"

Politicians have also been lying about what is actually on offer. As the NASUWT correctly states in an email sent to their members:

"The discussions have been inhibited from making real progress due to the Government's prevarication, delay in providing key information and game playing ... In the last few weeks, the Government has confirmed its intention to make further announcements on reforms to public sector pension schemes before Parliament rises on Tuesday 20 December. The timing of this announcement has not been discussed with the trade unions. As the imposed deadline for completion draws near, a deadline that is completely unnecessary given that scheme changes will not take effect until 2015, the Coalition has continued to impose further changes that will materially affect the outcome of these discussions, including the arbitrary decisions to take off the table the option of a final salary scheme for teachers and the decision to remove flexibility in relation to linking the NPA to the SPA.

This raises serious questions about the Coalition Government's
commitment to genuine negotiations".

Kazakhstan - protest against murderous repression

The muderous repression of oilworkers and their supporters is continuing in Kazakhstan. For latest reports see:

I have sent this message of support today - please send in your protest too:

To the Kazakhstan authorities:
I am writing to protest at the murderous repression and mass arrests of oil-workers and their supporters in Zhanaozen, Aktau and other parts of Kazakhstan.
This repression will not succeed in breaking the spirit of the Kazakhstan workers who have no alternative but to struggle because of the conditions that they are having to live under. In fact, it will do the opposite of what you intend - it will only strengthen their determination to struggle.
I call on you to stop the repression and release those arrested,
Yours, Martin Powell-Davies, member of the National Executive of the National Union of Teachers, London, UK

Latest update from Kazakhstan:

According to reports from the Public commission for investigating the bloody events of 16-17th December in Aktau, young workers from the “OzenMunaiGaz” company who have been arrested in Zhenaozen are being thrown into the open yard at the remand prison and are having water thrown over them. The temperature is currently MINUS 17 CELSIUS. The torturers are attempting to get the workers to admit to rioting and to give evidence against their friends. These Nazi methods must be stopped.

Protest immediately to the Kazakhstan Embassy in your country and to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kazakhstan at Email: and send messages of support to: with copies to

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Financial Times confirms danger of pensions sell-out

Today's Financial Times reveals the hopes of the financiers that their millionaires Government can stitch up a deal to sell-off our pensions. But it also shows that the deal is far from done - so please keep up the pressure over the weekend and by building the Lobby of the TUC PSLG at 2pm on Monday afternoon outside Congress House in Great Russell Street.

Please add your name to the NSSN petition:

FT Report: - Unions pushed to agree pensions deal

The chances of a breakthrough in the dispute over public sector pensions are on a knife-edge as the government pushes for outline agreements on the main changes for teachers, civil servants, health and council workers by Tuesday.

Frantic last-minute negotiations raised the possibility that the alliance of 29 unions that brought more than 1m workers out on strike on November 30 could fragment.

Some union leaders said “significant progress” was being made in talks within the schemes that could avert more industrial action. But the leftwing Public and Commercial Services union said ministers had threatened to throw it out of civil service talks if it did not agree to the main changes by 10am on Monday.

Ministers want to announce “heads of agreement” on each scheme on Tuesday, when Francis Maude, Cabinet Office minister, or Danny Alexander, Treasury chief secretary – the lead negotiators with the unions – will address the Commons. The government has threatened it may withdraw its latest offer, including protection for those within 10 years of retirement and a more generous rate for accruing pension benefits, unless a preliminary agreement is reached by year-end.

Negotiations are continuing even though the government angered unions on Friday by pressing ahead with raising pension contributions for teachers and civil servants next year, which unions said was “unnecessarily provocative”. Most civil servants and teachers will pay an extra 0.6-2.4 per cent of salary, with the higher paid contributing most. That is the first step in an average 3 percentage-point contribution increase phased in over three years.

Ministers have refused to compromise over the contributions increase and a planned move to schemes linked to the state pension age, based on career average pay rather than final salaries.

Local government employers and unions have agreed a framework that could postpone contribution changes for two years by bundling all the issues together, but are awaiting approval from ministers. Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, told members: “I believe that – if agreed – the principles under discussion will provide a very positive framework for negotiations and potentially could lead to no change until 2014.”

Langdon School - action brings results

After ten days of solid strike action, NUT members at Langdon School in Newham have voted overwhelmingly to suspend their strikes after growing pressure on the Local Authority helped to achieve some significant movement in negotiations to resolve the original grievances around workload and oppressive management.

The dispute is still far from resolved and members may need to return to strike action if the negotiated outcomes do not produce acceptable changes at the school.

However, as the Langdon NUT reps have said in their latest statement;
“We feel that we have shown that collective action works and that we have made considerable gains. We have won the victories we have because our group was willing to stand firm in the face of massive bullying and strike breaking attempts and maintain a solid and united strike. We also had brilliant support from the NUT at all levels: association, National Exec and Regional and National officials. In addition, the enormous solidarity we received from all of you kept us firm. We think we have shown that the NUT is a union which fights for its members and stands up to bullies at work ... Our group is transformed. We have new members, new strikers, new pickets, new speakers and new organisers. We have enormous solidarity and complete confidence in one another. Our morale is high and we have learned many lessons which we will put to good use. We are proud to be in the NUT”

Langdon NUT members should indeed be proud for their collective stand. Hopefully, the school management, the Labour Local Authority and the Tory Ministers who issued the advice to recruit strike-breakers will have realised that running a school with supply staff is not easy to sustain – and that the NUT will be prepared to respond with the action necessary to confront such a threat. Let's also hope that the gains that have been won do indeed produce the changes needed in the way the school is run.

Nevertheless, the dispute has been a warning to all NUT members about the methods that will be used to try and defeat our collective strength as we battle to defend teachers and education against swingeing cuts and attacks on public services.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Sign to say: Don't give up the pensions fight

Here are links to two statements circulating - please add your support: 

E-petition from the National Shop Stewards Network
Add your signature on:

We the undersigned:

Recognise that the magnficent N30 strike showed the potential power of public sector workers to defeat the government.

We reject Maude's latest pensions proposals which will mean all public sector workers having to work longer, pay more, and get less.

We say no to secret deals by union leaders over the heads of the membership. We demand democratic control of the negotiations.

We demand that the date is set for the next co-ordinated public sector strike early in the New Year. UNISON Scotland has already proposed 25 January as the date of the next strike.

Statement initiated by NUT and UCU Executive members:
Add your signature on

The government’s “final offer” is no improvement. There is no extra money on offer. The government still wants public sector workers to work longer, pay more and get less.

They haven’t moved on core issues:
* Fifty percent rise in pension contributions.
* Normal pension age to rise to the state retirement age. Retirement at 68 for those 34 and under.
* Pensions indexed at CPI instead of RPI. A cut for all existing pensioners.

We agree with those union general secretaries who are against accepting this offer. We ask all union general secretaries, if is was right to strike against these proposals on November 30th how it can be right to accept them now?

Ordinary trade union members have demonstrated their determination to resist these unfair and unnecessary changes; we call on our trade union leaders to reject the Government's bullying tactics and reject their unacceptable offer.

Act Now to Stop a Pensions Sell-Out

With perhaps predictable timing, just as we all head for a well-earned Christmas break, it seems that, despite the opposition of the NUT and others including the PCS and NASUWT, some TUC leaders are seeking to cave-in and sign an unacceptable attack on our pensions.

They would be guilty of accepting a pensions robbery which, just two weeks ago, we were all united in saying was unjustified and unacceptable. 

They will demoralise and undermine our united movement and invite the Government to go on the attack on jobs, facility time, TUPE, pay bargaining, capability procedures - and all the other attacks that they have lined up. 

Please help apply urgent pressure to make sure that negotiators do not cave-in but show the same courage and determination as their members showed in their millions on November 30.

A) I understand unions will be calling a Lobby of the TUC meeting planned for Monday afternoon (Dec 19th). This is where a decision could be taken to accept the shoddy deal. 

THE LOBBY WILL START AT 2.00 pm at Congress House, 23-28 Great Russell Street, WC1B. Please attend if you can!

B) Please sign the e-petition put out by the National Shop Stewards Network calling for a rejection of the deal and for further united action in January:

C) Please support and publicise the emergency open meeting being called by PCS Left Unity at Friends Meeting House, Euston Road, London on Saturday 7 January to demand further action on pensions.

This meeting will be open to all reps in any union that took action on N30 and is to put pressure on union leaderships to name a further strike day, more details will be issued shortly.

D) Please support other similar initiatives - such as the letter being signed by London NUT branch secretaries - and forward these appeals to friends and colleagues.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

URGENT: Pensions - No shoddy deal, set the date for action

Just when this Government is cracking at the seams, just when we have had one of the largest strikes for generations, some in the TUC are trying to recommend a shoddy deal that will allow the Government to get away with their pensions robbery.

Urgent pressure needs to be applied in every union to make sure that negotiators do not cave-in but show the same courage and determination as their members showed in their millions on November 30.

Reports from today's TUC PSLG meeting suggest that some, such as Brendan Barber and Dave Prentis, are arguing that 'we have gone as far as we can' and that unions should all agree to sign-up and throw in the towel on Monday. Reportedly, the PCS have even been told that if they don't agree by then, all talks will be ceased - with the threat that any concessions that have been offered (not that there are many!) will be removed.

I understand that the PCS, NUT and others like the NASUWT have stood firm - but others are clearly looking to settle. But what gains have been made? Prentis can apparently point to the offer of a two-year delay in increased contributions in Local Government - but that only postpones the pain to come. I understand that he has nothing similar in the Health negotiations. Certainly, nothing similar has been offered in education - in fact the hope that the Government might offer retirement ages set lower than the State Pension Age has been dashed - so it's still retirement at 67 and 68 for many. The only minor concession might be that if you retire at 66, you'll only lose 3% of your pension for every year of 'early' retirement instead of 5%!!. Even that would have to be paid for by losses elsewhere in the scheme.

Crucially, the Government has refused to lift the 'cost-ceiling' - in other words they are insisting that we pay for the Government's debts, even though they have refused any valuation to justify their attacks. So that means we still pay more, to get less and retire older - yet Brendan Barber wants us to settle on Monday!

If these union leaders have no stomach for a fight, then they have no right to call themselves a leadership. They will be guilty of accepting a pensions robbery which, just two weeks ago, we were all united in saying was unjustified and unacceptable. They will demoralise and undermine our united movement and invite the Government to go on the attack on jobs, facility time, TUPE, pay bargaining, capability procedures -  and all the other attacks that they have lined up.

So put out an urgent call in every union - don't cave-in. Call the Government's bluff and announce the next day of united strike action in January!

Thursday, 8 December 2011


The December meeting of the National Executive heard excellent reports from around the country from the united strike action on November 30 – one of the biggest for generations and probably the biggest strike in Britain ever by women.

The Executive congratulated members for their magnificent support. In every area, more schools were closed than in June, there were more rallies and demonstrations - and a bigger turnout at those events. Feedback showed that school reps particularly enjoyed the high level of public support and the feeling of trade union unity.

The Executive noted the "concessions" offered by the Government, but affirmed that they nowhere near meet our objectives of protecting fair pensions for our members without unjustified increases in contributions.

Kevin Courtney spelt out how Osborne had thrown down the gauntlet to us all in the Autumn Statement: further attacks on pay, even more public sector job cuts, attacks on TUPE and national pay bargaining as well as accelerating the increase in the pension age.

Kevin also reported from the on-going negotiations which had not, as yet, yielded any substantial concessions. Ministers are still lying about pension costs and the nature of their ‘offers’. Nick Gibb’s latest email message even claims that “it would not be a sensible use of public funds to undertake costly actuarial valuations”. Clearly, it’s cheaper just to make things up !

The various union legal challenges to the change from RPI to CPI had been thrown out - but the NUT has been granted leave to appeal against the ruling on one area where there was a split judgement. One judge - although in a minority - did agree with the Union’s view that the Government had chosen CPI over RPI basically because it would save money and not because it was a better method to calculate price increases.

We also noted the determination of Government to maintain its offensive and how it had now wheeled out Lord Hutton to justify its actions (obviously stung by the fact that his own Report confirmed our arguments and National Audit Office evidence that, far from being unaffordable, the cost of public sector pensions is actually set to fall).

But, if we are all agreed that we are going to resist that offensive - then we have to continue – and escalate - our campaign. That’s why the Executive agreed a motion setting out a series of steps to maintain and develop that campaign in order to protect teachers, particularly young teachers.

Some of the key points we agreed were to:
  • Seek to maintain unity with other unions in negotiations to protect our existing schemes;
  • Continue to work to retain and build the broadest possible coalition of unions to campaign and act against the Government’s proposals.  This could include private-sector workers as well as those in the public sector. For example, the NUT General Secretary supported my suggestion of sending a message of  support to members of UNITE in Unilever plants taking strike action against cuts to their pension scheme;
  • Produce further campaigning materials, including material targeted at young teachers;
  • Survey members on willingness to take further action of all kinds – national, regional, selective;
  • Call on the TUC to call a further day of strike action early in the New Year, and to consider further action beyond that;
  • Call on the TUC to draw up plans for a national demonstration on pensions/austerity;
  • Hold public lobbying events where ministers speak and visit, and at MPs’ surgeries and to approach the Labour Party to clarify their views;
  • Assess the feasibility of a levy of members through the Direct Debit system to support further action - e.g. to support hardship claims;
  • Investigate what action short of strike action can be taken to further our campaign - e.g. to work in united action with NASUWT colleagues;
  • Hold emergency Executive meetings if decisions need to be made on actions, negotiations etc;
  • Approach other unions, including those with members in the private sector, and the National Pensions Convention, to develop the ‘Fair Pensions for All’ campaign as a high-profile public campaign, involving stalls and petitions.

We cannot let the Government get away with their pensions robbery. Together, we can defeat it. So enjoy your Xmas break - but prepare for more action - and tell National Executive members what you think is needed to win.

… and don’t forget to make sure staff sign and send-off the “All I want for Christmas  is our pensions back” Christmas Card for Mr Gove included in the latest national reps’ mailing from NUT Headquarters!

December NUT Executive Report - Workload and other issues

The Pensions dispute is only part of the battle we are facing to defend teachers and education. Here are some other issues we discussed:

Capability and Performance Management

The Executive heard an update on our campaign to oppose the Government’s plans to repeal the existing Performance Management Regulations, which includes getting rid of the ‘three hour yearly limit’ on classroom observations.

We are seeking to get a joint policy on capability, observations and performance management agreed with other unions that we will ask schools to adopt. This will be backed-up by a co-ordinated campaign of school-based action to support our demands.

The pressures on teachers have increased even further in many schools this term. With Ministers wanting teachers to work on until 68 or even older, the links with the pensions campaign are also clear.

We want to build as much united action as we can with other unions, notably the NASUWT who have issued advice to their members following their recent ballot. The NUT will be reissuing workload advice stressing what limits we can insist on within existing contractual rights, but also that the Union will move urgently to carry out ballots in schools where requested to protect against excessive workload.
Sixth Form Colleges

The Executive agreed to proceed with balloting NUT members in Sixth Form Colleges for strike action in opposition to the worsening of terms and conditions as a result of funding cuts to the sector.

Misuse of Temporary Contracts
The Executive agreed a motion to go to the TUC Young Members’ Conference challenging the misuse of fixed term and temporary contracts, particularly for younger staff.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Langdon School - members stand firm as support for strike strengthens


First, the strike itself. Last week we struck on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. We're really pleased to be able to tell you that two NUT members who crossed picket lines the Thursday before have rejoined the strike. An NASUWT member and an NUT ex-member both joined the union this week and immediately struck with us. We're therefore stronger this weekend than we were last, which is really not what the head had in mind when she began the strike busting operation! Hats off to the new strikers - it's a credit to them in the face of relentless bullying and intimidation from management that they're with us.

On Tuesday we welcomed several first timers on the picket lines, as well as two National Executive members. The bin lorry refused to cross the line, as did Parcel Force drivers. Our strikers' meeting for the day took place at the Newham NUT association meeting, with over 50 strikers there. Colleagues from two secondary school groups moved a motion to spread the action to other Newham schools, as we consider that as the LA are issuing contracts to strike breakers, this means that our whole branch should be in dispute. The motion passed by 90 votes to nil and will now go to the Action Committee. Members from other schools joined us for the strikers' meeting.

Wednesday's picket was shared with Unite members at school, which was closed to pupils. NUT pickets then visited two PCS picket lines and Unison pickets at the town hall, then went into London for the demonstration. We were joined by delegations from four other Newham schools and two from Waltham Forest in putting thousands of leaflets (paid for by our supporters' donations) into the London demo urging solidarity for the strike.

Thursday saw 42 of our strikers on the gates. The strikers' meeting had 55 there, concentrating on building the meeting for parents due on Friday. We also worked out a collective strategy for staff briefing on Friday morning, which has in recent weeks consisted of the NUT being pilloried. There was a discussion of how best to escalate action if we're still out next term - three days a week to keep in touch with kids and parents and disrupt the scabbing, or five days a week?

Friday's staff briefing wasn't half as demoralising as usual, with sixty NUT members standing together with notebooks taking down the head's every word... The collective response lifted morale enormously. Senior managers spent the day demanding our planners so they can set cover for the scabs to do with our classes. We spent the day standing up to them. In the evening about 80 parents attended the NUT's meeting, despite LA attempts to get us to call it off. Our branch secretary has been accused of engaging in actions which are 'not legitimate trade union activity' and had his facility time threatened - another reason for a borough wide dispute, in our view. Kevin Courtney spoke for the union. Opinion in the meeting was clearly against the head and the Chair of Governors. Many parents and two parent governors supported the strike. This is work to be developed next week.

The school is open and running (just about) on scab labour when we're out, so next week's first strikers' meeting will concentrate on strategies for picketing. Three days on strike next week. We got about a thousand pounds in donations this week, with more on the way, and began to send out speakers to other schools.

Thanks to you all. Keep the messages coming in, invite us to speak, collect for us. Above all, forward this email to your associations, divisions and members and to any other union contacts you have and use us as an example. Let's fight together.

November 30 Reports on Classroom Teacher Blog

Teachers take their message to millionaire Maude in Horsham
There are lots of reports from rallies and marches posted on the Classroom Teacher blog on:

For a great summary of our arguments against pensions robbery - and a call for further action - look for the video of Kevin Courtney's speech at the Leicester rally:

Court ruling leaves us no alternative but to strike again

The court ruling that it is 'lawful' to go ahead with the change from RPI to CPI for the indexation of pensions is no real surprise - the courts have rarely been a friend to the trade union movement.
But this is an unjust and unfair decision that hits all pensioners, not just public scetor trade unionists. In fact, as the NUT press release below explains, the Government won't even confirm whether state pensions will even go up by the low CPI rate next year. Are they planning even bigger cuts to our poverty-level state pensions?

Commenting on today’s High Court decision regarding the Government’s decision to change pension indexation from RPI to CPI inflation, Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union said:

“The NUT took part in this action because the Government’s decision was simply wrong.  Cutting pensions to save money at pensioners’ expense is disgraceful and immoral.  

“All three judges agreed that a substantial motivation for the switch to CPI was deficit reduction.  It is disappointing that only one judge felt able to say that that was wrong.  It’s also disappointing that the arguments advanced by the other unions involved were treated so dismissively.  The NUT has obtained permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal.

“In the meantime, the Government has deliberately avoided saying whether public sector pensions will be increased even by CPI in 2012.  We call on George Osborne to make his position clear immediately and tell pensioners that he is not going to impose even bigger cuts next year.”

Thursday, 1 December 2011

November 30 - Lewisham NUT on the March

In Lewisham, the day started early with a picket-line from 6.30 am outside Prendergast Ladywell Fields College of NUT and GMB members.

A reporter from LBC radio interviewed Fran, the school NUT rep, who explained how teachers could not work on until 68 and how education would suffer if we had to. The reporter tried to find a passer-by who was against the strikes - but couldn't find a single one! The toots from the car-horns of passing motorists made very clear the mood of the public - it's time someone stood up to this millionaire's government!

Picket lines were also mounted at several other schools - although the vast majority had been either totally or largely closed to pupils. Everyone then gathered at the Town Hall in Catford where UNISON pickets reported that the building was largely empty with very few staff reporting for work.

Then it was off to Charing Cross to meet hundreds more Lewisham staff. We walked behind the Lewisham banners - including a fantastic one from Sydenham School - up to Lincoln's Inn Fields for the start of the all-London joint union demonstration.

The square just wasn't big enough for the thousands that had gathered. It set-off at about 12.45 - and was still leaving the square two hours later. There must have been over 50,000 marching.

We marched along the Strand and down to the Embankment before listening to Christine Blower, Mark Serwotka and other speakers at the closing rally. 

One banner summed up the mood of many on the day: - "Work Till You Die - Or Strike Till You Win!"

November 30: A tsunami not a 'damp squib' !

November 30 was a momentous day that could prove to be a significant turning-point in the battle to defeat this Government's attacks on pensions, pay, jobs and public services.

Over 50,000 marched in London with the NUT leading the way through the streets to the rally at the Embankment. Reports from around the country describe huge turnouts in every area - over 30,000 in Manchester and 10,000 in Nottingham for example.

For a quick round-up of reports, visit

Cameron claimed the strike was a 'damp squib' - but he is only deluding himself! This was a huge show of strength bringing new trade unionists on strike across the country and linking together two million workers from many different unions in joint action.

Now we carry on until we win!

More reports and photos to follow.