ATL members overwhelmingly vote to strike over fundamental changes to pensions

14 June 2011

78,342 ATL members were eligible to vote in the ballot which ran from Friday 20 May to Tuesday 14 June. 27,563 voted (35%) and of those 22,840 voted to strike (83%), and 4,653 voted against.

Of teachers and lecturers working in state-funded schools and colleges, 62,369 were balloted. 22,230 voted (36%), and of those 18,396 (83%) voted to strike, and 3,785 voted against.

Of teachers and lecturers working in independent schools and colleges, 15,973 were balloted. 5,333 voted (33%), and of those 4,444 (83%) voted to strike, 868 voted against.

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of ATL, said: "This is a warning shot across the bows to the government.  When even the least militant education union and teachers working in private schools vote to strike the government would be wrong to ignore it.

"We didn't want to have to ballot members to strike, but the government gave us no choice because it is planning to announce a large increase in pension contributions within weeks. This is despite changes to the Teachers' Pension Scheme (TPS), along with other public sector schemes, made by agreement in 2007 to deal with increased life expectancy which together will save the Treasury £67 billion over the next 50 years. The planned increase in pension contributions from teachers and lecturers has nothing to do with the health of the TPS and is just a 3.5% tax on teachers and lecturers.

"We don't want to have to strike now. What happens next is up to the government. If it negotiates in good faith we can all avert unnecessary disruption to pupils, schools and colleges across England and Wales.

"But if the government continues to push ahead with such radical plans to change teachers' and lecturers' pensions it leaves us no choice – we will have to defend members' pensions and there will be a strike. We are willing to negotiate anytime and anywhere - is the government?"

ATL president, Andy Brown, said:"Teachers and lecturers feel totally betrayed by the government.  When we all started teaching we accepted the deal to work for less than friends in other degree-level professions, in return for receiving a modest but secure pension. No way do we have gold-plated pensions – the average teacher's pension is £10,000 a year.

"Teachers and lecturers do not live in ivory towers. We are only too well aware of the current economic problems and the financial hardships many people are suffering because many of the families of the children we teach are suffering too and we are feeling the pain ourselves - teachers have a two-year pay freeze, are facing redundancies, benefit cuts, and a VAT increase. 

"The government's plans to fundamentally change our pensions will ultimately damage children's education. It will mean fewer people wanting to train as teachers or lecturers, and make it unaffordable for young teachers saddled with student debt to join the pension scheme. Schools will lose great teachers, lecturers and heads, and it will be incredibly hard for schools to recruit heads, particularly at primary level. Some private schools are likely to close and fees will go up in others as schools struggle to fund pension schemes for their staff. How can this possibly benefit anyone?

"It is completely unjust to make teachers, lecturers and children suffer for the economic mistakes made by UK governments and the financial sector.

"Tomorrow (15 June) I will make a decision on the date for a strike unless the government indicates a willingness to make significant changes to its plans."

The government's pension proposals would mean all teachers and lecturers would have to:

  • pay more – pension contributions would increase from 6.4% to 9.8%, which would mean on average a teacher would pay £1,145 a year more and a headteacher £1,965 more.

  • work longer – the normal retirement age would rise to 66 and then 68.

  • get less – the final salary scheme would be replaced by a career average scheme giving 15% less in retirement.

  • And the proposals would exclude all teachers and heads in independent schools, around 60,000 people.

ATL balloted all ATL and AMiE (its leadership group) members in England and Wales who are eligible to be members of the Teachers' Pension Scheme (TPS).  This included all members employed as teachers, lecturers or leaders in:

  • local authority state funded schools

  • local authority central services, who are paid as teachers and are eligible for the TPS

  • academies

  • sixth form colleges and further education colleges which are all part of the TPS

  • independent schools which have been admitted to the TPS

  • the post-1992 universities who are in the TPS.

ATL members last took national industrial action on 2 May 1979, before current legislation on balloting, over changes to teachers' pay.

Notes to editors

  1. The Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) is an independent, registered trade union and professional association, representing approximately 170,000 teachers, headteachers, lecturers and support staff in maintained and independent nurseries, schools, sixth form, tertiary and further education colleges in the United Kingdom.

  2. ATL exists to help members, as their careers develop, through first rate research, advice, information and legal advice.

  3. ATL is affiliated to the Trades Union Congress (TUC), Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE) and Education International (EI). ATL is not affiliated to any political party and seeks to work constructively with all the main political parties.

This is a warning shot across the bows to the government

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of ATL

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