Sunderland teachers’ ‘100 per cent’ support for strike

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PARENTS across Sunderland are bracing themselves as schools face closing for the day due to strike action.

Working families may have to find extra childcare following the announcement that industrial action has been planned for Thursday, June 30.

Members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) voted in favour of the walk-out, due to proposed changes to their pension scheme.

Unions are fighting the Government’s plans, which they say will see teachers working longer, paying more and getting less when they retire.

Howard Brown, the NUT’s divisional officer for Wearside, said: “There are two unions involved, so every school in Sunderland will probably be affected by the strike.

“I would think most schools in the city will have to close.

“Teachers in Sunderland are 100 per cent behind this action.

“We have teachers facing losing pay in one of the most difficult financial times I can remember, but the strength of feeling on this issue is so strong it has to be done.”

The Hetton School teacher said under the proposals, teachers will be forced to work until they are nearly 70.

He said: “It is also about ensuring the quality of education. Parents don’t want their children to be taught by a 68-year-old.”

The dispute over pensions is likely to widen with other public sector unions holding ballots for industrial action this summer.

Lecturers and academics at the University and College Union, UCU, have already timetabled strike action for June 30 over the same issue and The National Association of Head Teachers, NAHT, is poised to ballot its own members over the pension changes.

In the NUT’s ballot 92 per cent voted in favour of strike action and the ATL, which has never taken strike action before, had 83 per cent of members voting in favour of the walk out.

The strike will affect both state and private schools.

The pension reforms include raising the retirement age for state employees from 60 to 66 by 2020, final salary schemes will be scrapped and replaced by career averages and ministers will get more powers to raise employee contributions.

The Government says the cost of paying for teachers’ pensions is forecast to rise from about £5billion in 2005 to almost £10billion by 2015 as more staff retire and life expectancy increases.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said the Government was committed to working openly and constructively with unions.

He added: “But we are clear that a strike by teachers will only damage pupils’ learning and inconvenience their busy working parents.

“The well-being and safety of pupils must remain paramount.”

@SunEchoSchools