Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Pensions when you need them – not when you’re forced into ‘early retirement’

Public Support for the FBU outside Euston Fire-Station
Somewhere in the Treasury, I suspect there’s an analysis of the real savings the Government expects to make from public sector pensions – not from increased contributions or newly-calculated career averages but from the blatant robbery of enforced “early retirement”.

If a teacher decides that they can’t last out to their ‘normal pension age’ (NPA) - and many can't - but need to draw their pension ‘early’, they have to pay a huge financial penalty of about 4% of their entitlements for each year below their NPA.

The calculators on the Teachers’ Pensions website show that a teacher who still has a protected NPA of 60 can choose to retire at 55 – but will only get 79% of their pension entitlements. That’s a massive saving to the Treasury.

If you’re a newer entrant with a NPA of 65, then going at 55 will leave you with just 61% of your final pension! 

So who would possibly retire ten years ‘early’ you ask? That’s when you have to remember that the NPA under the new Teachers' Pension Scheme could be as high as 68. The Government wants to make it even higher than that! How many teachers can work beyond 60 – especially when the Government plans wants to make our workload even greater ? So teachers will be forced to quit – and hand back much of their hard-won pension entitlements back to the Treasury. 

Of course, some older teachers won’t be given a choice. They’ll be told by their Head that they aren’t up to speed any more. If they can’t work themselves into the ground like some young teachers who are recruited, overworked and then spat out after a few years, they face the threat of trial by ‘capability’.

Of course, that’s exactly the same threat facing fire-fighters. Now it’s hard enough teaching a class at 60 but turning up at a school in flames to climb a ladder and rescue children is an even harder task at that age !

That’s why the FBU rightly took strike action today and I was pleased to be able to pass by the picket line at Euston fire station on the way to a Coventry NUT meeting tonight. I was even more pleased to find out that my television interview as a ‘random’ passer-by in support of their action had gone out on BBC London News tonight!

Fire-fighters, teachers and other public sector workers face the same attacks on our pensions, pay and conditions. It’s right that the FBU took action today and that the NUT and NASUWT will be holding regional strikes on October 1 and October 17. But wouldn’t be even better if we took that action together on the same day?

The NUT and NASUWT have already pencilled in a date for national strike action later this term. Let’s make it a day when fire-fighters, teachers, postal workers and every union in dispute with this rotten Government takes action together!

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