FURIOUS union members have called on the Government to give them a fairer deal on their pensions.
A one-day strike by the National Union of Teachers (NUT), Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), University and College Union (UCU) and the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) went ahead as planned yesterday.
Hundreds of workers across Worcestershire joined picket lines, closing more than 100 schools and disrupting colleges, the courts and public sector offices.
There was a large picket line outside Worcester College of Technology at Whittington Road where tax office workers and Defra staff were protesting, and also at Worcester Magistrates Court.
At the main county rally at St Peter’s Baptist Church in Worcester, unions called for good faith negotiations from the Government, and greater cooperation between all unions, including those not on strike, to act against planned pension changes.
Despite their anger with the Government, workers reserved the loudest jeers for Labour leader Ed Miliband, who many believe has deserted the unions when they need him.
Max Hyde, NUT national executive member, said the public sector was being punished by the actions of reckless bankers among others.
She said: “The Lord Hutton report on pension reform shows clearly there is no pensions crisis. The audit office also says there’s no problems and a parliamentary select committee say there’s no problem so my question to the Government is, ‘what is the problem?’”
Mrs Hyde said teachers paid their taxes but were being made to pay for a crisis not of their making.
The point was echoed by David Storey, UCU University of Worcester rep, who said the Government’s arguments were undermined while it chose to embark on costly military adventures in Libya.
Kevin Greenway, of the PCS, said: “We are all here today in defence of public sectors jobs, pensions and pay. We need to stand firm, be clear and not allow others to divide us.”
Teachers are angry because the Government is trying to impose changes put forward in a review by Labour peer Lord Hutton which they say will end up with teachers paying more into their pensions for less.
Steve Baker, ATL Worcestershire branch secretary, said: “It’s basically a tax on our pensions, because we’re being told we’ll have to pay 50 per cent more in our contributions which will go straight to the Treasury.”
The current teachers’ pension scheme means teachers pay six-and-a-half per cent of their monthly salary into a pension pot, while the Government pays 13-and-a-half per cent.
The Government wants to make teachers pay an extra three per cent, but then agree to receive at least 15 per cent less over the life of their pension says Mr Baker.
Teachers are also furious their inflation-linked pensions could be linked to the consumer price index, which gives a lower inflation value than the retail price index.
Mr Baker said: “We’re getting imposed demands from Government and we’re saying provide us with evidence so we can properly negotiate.”
More than 11,000 schools in England were affected by yesterday’s strike, according to the latest figures to be released by the Department for Education (DfE).