On 30th November, Scotland’s largest teaching trade union, the EIS, will take strike action for the first time in 25 years. This decision has not been taken lightly, but the EIS has been left with no alternative given government intransigence on the issue of pension reform.
Indeed, as things stand, government plans on pensions will result in teachers and other public sector workers paying more in contributions, with the prospect of working longer and receiving less. This comes at a time when teachers have already endured a wage freeze and changes to terms and conditions which have saved the government £45 million this year alone.
Predictably, our MP, Alistair Carmichael, recently commented in this newspaper that “pension reform is unavoidable”; that the strike is based on resistance to any change at all; and that the unions’ case will not be “readily understood by many people”.
What Mr Carmichael did not reveal is that the changes made to public sector pensions in 2007 will, as Lord Hutton’s interim report accepted, reduce the future cost of pension schemes as a percentage of GDP. Nor did Mr Carmichael mention that the proposed contribution increases for public sector workers are simply a tax aimed at addressing a budget deficit caused by greedy bankers and the inept political class that failed to regulate them.
In the days ahead we will no doubt hear a good deal of union-bashing from members of the Con/Dem coalition. It is of course easy to lecture the public on the need to make sacrifices when you are sitting on a gold-plated pension and know that your expenses will be picked up by the taxpayer.
EIS Executive, Shetland LA
EIS Assistant Secretary, Shetland LA