Socialist Worker

Strike ballot over pensions

by BARRY CONWAY, secretary Bolton NUT
Issue No. 1900

MEMBERS OF the National Union of Teachers in Bolton have voted by four to one in an indicative ballot for a one-day strike over government attacks on our pensions. We are now approaching the union's national action committee to sanction an official strike ballot. The 40 percent turnout on what was only a "mock" ballot indicates the support for a strike.

Since we publicised the ballot result we have been inundated with messages from other NUT associations saying they are either going to follow suit or at least consider it.

The issue is, of course, wider than just Bolton or indeed teaching. The government has launched a full-scale onslaught on public sector workers' pension rights. That parallels the ending of final salary pension schemes in the private sector. We are sending a coach down to the TUC's pensions rally on 19 June.

The strength of feeling among our members is immense. People just cannot accept being told they will have to work an extra five years through to the age of 65 before being able to draw their pension. The initiative in our association came from one school where I was called in to discuss the government's pensions' proposals.

That led to a very well attended association meeting where 67 union members representing 23 schools unanimously voted for the indicative ballot. The date we have in mind for action is Friday 10 September. The NUT is fully behind the pensions demonstration in June and it is important that is built across every union.

But we all know that it will take more than a demonstration, no matter how successful, to force the government to back off. That's why we are encouraging NUT associations to build on the union's national position by also going for ballots for a strike on 10 September. This issue is galvanising the membership, and not only of the NUT, more than any other I can remember.

I spoke at a general meeting of the Unison union local government branch in Bolton where there was a lot of interest in the initiative we've taken. We are putting together a pensions action committee with representatives of different unions locally. The Unison branch has unanimously voted to join it and build for the London demonstration.

Clearly, what is needed is determined, hard-hitting action of the kind we have seen in Europe in defence of pensions. We are by no means there yet and the step we have taken in Bolton is not a substitute for national action.

But we believe it offers a way to up the pressure for such action and to give confidence to our members that something can be done about the single biggest attack we face.

  • You can contact Barry Conway at [email protected]

  • Delegates at Unison's health conference voted overwhelmingly for an industrial action ballot if the government goes ahead with plans to increase by five years the age at which NHS staff can access their full pensions.

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    Article information

    Sat 8 May 2004, 00:00 BST
    Issue No. 1900
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