Update: pensions battle – Build for the biggest possible action on 28 March

Martin Powell-Davies, NUT national executive committee (personal capacity)

This government may have hoped that they had safely got away with their pensions robbery. But they had better think again!

The national executives of the teachers’ union NUT, civil servants’ union PCS and lecturers’ union UCU have all unanimously agreed to build support for a continuing campaign of action, starting with another one-day strike on 28 March. They could well be joined by others including the Northern Ireland Public Sector Alliance (Nipsa) and Scottish teaching unions EIS and SSTA.

Some union leaders may have shamefully withdrawn from the battle but, with the Fire Brigades Union and sections of Unite also considering action, a strong coalition is being forged. Together, we can, and must make sure that it is the Con-Dems who have to retreat, not the unions.

The fog of confusion that spread when the ‘heads of agreement’ was issued in the new year is starting to clear. The truth is emerging that this shabby ‘deal’ yielded no further concessions of any significance beyond what had already been won in November. It still means workers having to pay more, retire older, and get less pension when they do.

How can a teacher or firefighter work on into their 60s? With the government threatening teachers with even greater workload, it will be hard enough to work until 60, let alone 68. Many workers will be forced to retire long before they reach their state pension age, allowing the government to claw back thousands of pounds more from our pensions.

With pay already frozen, who can afford to see their pension contributions increase by 50%? Staff already struggling with debts could just drop out of the scheme, and retire in poverty. This is still an unjustified extra tax to pay for the bankers’ debts and cheapen costs for private profiteers. While teachers would have to pay in more, employers’ contributions could be cut!

The NUT will be taking these arguments out to every school to mobilise support for 28 March and beyond. Like other unions, we’ll be calling on members to vote in an indicative survey to give a clear endorsement for this ongoing programme of strike action.

By voting for action, we’ll be sending a clear message to the government that the fight for pensions is far from over. At the same time, we’ll also be making clear that we are ready to fight against all those other attacks on pay, conditions and public services that this millionaires’ government wants to throw at us.