“Last resort” teacher strike today

HUNDREDS of Derbyshire schools are to shut to pupils as teachers rally on strike today.

The one-day walkout by the National Union of Teachers and Association of Teachers and Lecturers – which is striking for the first time – is over proposed Government changes to pensions.

“I’m expecting most schools in Derbyshire to either be closed to pupils or severely affected”, said John Holmes, NUT Derbyshire division secretary. Union leaders say plans would see teachers pay more in pension contributions, work longer and receive less on retirement four years after their scheme was last negotiated. They also claim students’ education will suffer as the best graduates are deterred from joining the profession, while others leave. “It’s one thing on top of another, on top of another”, said Cathy Tattersfield, ATL’s executive member for Derbyshire, explaining why the union had been moved to strike.

“For the first time ever our members have come out in droves for a ballot.”

Teachers will rally in Chesterfield’s Market Place today as well as up and down the country. Mr Holmes said the action – controversial with some parents who have to organise childcare – had been sparked because pensions were “under attack” and the Government was ignoring calls for a full scheme assessment and negotiations.

He added: “Teachers do not go on strike just like that. What they’re in business for is looking after the kids. We are on last resort.”

Making comparisons with the private sector was ‘unfair’, said Mr Holmes, and the aim should be to make sure everyone in the country received a fair pension. We’re not saying we’ll never pay any more out, we’re saying there should be a fair assessment in order to look at the true position of the teachers’ pension scheme.”

Ms Tattersfield added: “The contribution (increase) isn’t to make our pension scheme viable, it’s simply a tax to help the deficit of our country. Why should we only have to help the country, if you want to do that why don’t you tax everybody?”

More strikes could happen later this year.

l What do you think? Email comment@derbyshiretimes.co.uk.

ellen.beardmore@derbyshiretimes.co.uk