Belfast Telegraph

Osborne warns over teachers' strike

Thousands of teachers, health and education workers are preparing to stage a 24-hour strike in the escalating dispute over public sector jobs, pay and pensions.

Schools across Wales will close because of the walkout by members of the Welsh teachers' union UCAC on Wednesday, while schools and hospitals in Northern Ireland will be disrupted in a separate stoppage by Unison on the same day.

The strikes are a foretaste of widespread disruption expected during the TUC's day of action on November 30 when millions of workers could be on strike over the Government's controversial public sector pension reforms.

UCAC said its strike over the pensions row, following a 9-1 vote in favour of action, will hit schools, further education colleges and universities.

General secretary Elaine Edwards said: "The Government's proposals are totally unnecessary and absolutely unfair. Asking teachers and lecturers to pay more each month, to work until they're 68 and even then to receive smaller payments in retirement shows a lack of understanding of the nature of the profession and also a complete lack of respect to educators."

"The Teachers' Pension Scheme is sustainable. That isn't the problem. The problem is the enormous deficit created by the bankers, but the Government won't own up to that.

"For teachers, taking strike action doesn't come easily. We're all too aware of the effect on pupils and their parents, but we're concerned that this attack on pensions will have a negative impact on educational standards by making teaching a less attractive profession, and we know that that's a matter of concern for parents too."

UCAC, which has not staged a strike since the mid-1980s when there was a dispute over pay, said a newly qualified teacher faced paying an extra £61 a month under the planned 3.2% increase in pension contributions, rising to £189 a month for those on leadership scales.

The strike by Unison members in Northern Ireland's health and education sectors is over budget cuts, with some employees, such as home care workers, taking industrial action for the first time.

Unison said it had agreed to provide emergency cover for health trusts and the ambulance service but predicted that hospital operations and outpatient clinic appointments will be cancelled.

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