Teachers to ballot for strike on pension reform

LONDON Sat Apr 23, 2011 10:18pm BST

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LONDON (Reuters) - Teachers are set to launch the first challenge to proposed government reforms of public sector pensions after one of the largest education unions agreed on Saturday to ballot members on strike action.

The move by delegates at the National Union of Teachers (NUT) conference in Harrogate could lead to strikes in June and follows a similar decision by the smaller Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) this week.

Civil servants in the Public and Commercial Services union will also consider a strike ballot call at a conference next month.

Trade union leaders have agreed to coordinate their protests against government austerity measures including job cuts and pay freezes, with pension reform a potential flashpoint.

The coalition government, seeking to cut a record budget deficit, is consulting over proposals to make public sector workers retire later and receive lower pension benefits.

NUT General-Secretary Christine Blower said any strike action would not disrupt summer school exams.

She said she would discuss the timing of a possible strike with the ATL teaching union and that the action would be coordinated through the Trades Union Congress, the national unions association.

"There is every possibility that by the time we get to the autumn our colleagues who are in the local government (pension) scheme and the health schemes and the civil service schemes will also be taking action, on a coordinated but not necessarily simultaneous basis with us," she told BBC TV.

Education Minister Nick Gibb said the changes were required because increasing life expectancy had made the schemes unaffordable, with the cost of paying teacher pensions forecast to double to 10 billion pounds in 2015 from 5 billion pounds in 2005.

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