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No-one’s a winner from day of strike action

No-one’s a winner from day of strike action

Toby Perkins, Labour Member of Parliament for Chesterfield says only dialogue will bring about a fairer deal for teachers and uninterrupted schooling in the public sector pension row.

Today, many schools across Chesterfield are closed due to strike action by hundreds of National Union of Teachers (NUT) and Association for Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) members.

Whilst describing the decision to strike as ‘a mistake’, Perkins warned that the Government’s ‘gung ho’ approach to public sector pension reform will cause unnecessary chaos for schoolchildren and parents as talks between Michael Gove and unions continue to fall short of finding a solution.

While the Government has bewildered many across the UK with half baked plans for parents to step in and take over for the duration of the one day strike. Mr. Perkins has called on the Government to think again about the immediate 3% rise in pension contributions for teachers, emphasizing the need to consider a more long-term plan, while advising the unions that strike action may backfire as parents scramble for day time supervision as a result of the strikes.

The NUT believes that the rise in pension contributions could lead to some teachers paying up to £100 a month more. Michael Gove and his team have so far maintained a hard line, in yet another squeeze of middle incomes and the obvious disruption to children’s education.

Lord Hutton had provided a report for the government into public sector provision in which he had exploded the myth that government pensions were ‘gold- plated’. The average public sector pension is around £6,500 a year. The approach of the Tory led coalition stands apart from Labour’s previous approach in government entirely.

In Government Labour took tough decisions to put public sector pensions on a sustainable footing.

We limited increases in the normal pension age (NPA) for the uniformed services and mostly focussed the age increase for new entrants to schemes.

  • This saw the NPA move from 60 to 65
  • This system spreads the cost of any future unexpected increases in contributions more equally between employer and employees than previously. The costs are shared up to a cap, but above the cap, they are borne by just employees.
  • This would have saved £1bn by 2012-13 and £13 billion over the next 50 years.

We limited taxpayer liability and shared the risk resulting from population growth, through the ‘cap and share’ rules

We also changed accrual rates for many of the reformed public sector pension schemes, especially for new entrants.

Most importantly, we took all of these steps through a partnership with those in the public sector who participated in negotiations to reach a fair and strong outcome.

Whilst we think that the Hutton report can provide a starting point for negotiations, it is clearly wrong that the government placed a 3% surcharge on pensions prior to the Hutton report even being concluded, showing bad faith, and setting out on a confrontational path from the outset.

Mr. Perkins, the Shadow Minister for Children and Families commented:-

“Strike action must always be a last resort, and I feel that public sympathy for the case of the teachers will be eroded by the sense that these strikes are premature.

The right to withdraw Labour is a precious one and should always be used responsibly, public opinion really matters.

However, the apparent relish with which the Secretary of State for Education and the Prime Minister are approaching this crisis creates the distinct impression that they are more interested in the political angle than in delivering a fair deal for public sector workers.

The government appears to be spoiling for a fight with the teaching profession, so vital to the education and aspirations of the next generation, which will only mean all parties will inevitably lose out. As well as causing avoidable chaos for thousands of parents in my constituency, the Government’s proposals lack empathy and a long term vision. This is an unacceptable situation and I urge Michael Gove and the unions to stop posturing and get working on finding a solution”.

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Welcome

I am Toby Perkins, Labour's Member of Parliament for Chesterfield. If you would like to get in touch with me, my office is open and can be reached by phone on 01246 386 286. I also hold regular surgeries so that constituents can meet me and I can take up their concerns. If you would like to make an appointment then please do contact my office. Thank you for visiting.

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Post: 113 Saltergate, Chesterfield, S40 1NF

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