Teachers ‘suspicious of politicians’ over pensions

Teachers are being treated as “patsies” by governments in negotiations about pensions, a leading union member has warned.
Teachers 'should be weary of politicians of all parties'. Picture: GettyTeachers 'should be weary of politicians of all parties'. Picture: Getty
Teachers 'should be weary of politicians of all parties'. Picture: Getty

Politicians of all parties should be regarded with suspicion in their dealings with the profession, according to Alan McKenzie, acting general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association (SSTA).

His comments come on the day of the union’s congress, held in Peebles in the Borders.

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“In simple terms, we regard all politicians of all parties dealing with Scottish education with the greatest of suspicion,” he said.

“We have witnessed in the SSTA over the decades too many examples of broken promise, too many pieces of political posturing, too many instances of cheap vote chasing.”

‘Under attack’

Political battles between the Scottish and UK governments, particularly in the run-up to the independence referendum, will influence the relationship, he said.

“Now let us be clear. We are not deluded into believing that the Scottish Government is entirely motivated by its wish to secure a reasonable public pension settlement,” he said.

“It is obvious that an impending independence referendum must clearly influence a posture of defiance against the UK Treasury.”

Accepting that teachers will have to “roll with the punches”, he added: “The teachers’ side and our members will not be treated like patsies by any government and, I am sad to say, we have increasingly been given the impression that that is exactly how we have been regarded.”

His comments were supported by SSTA president Margaret Smith, also speaking at the congress.

Referring to her experience over the past two years, she said: “The concerns I raised last year still beset us. Pensions remain under attack.”

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A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We are required by the UK government to implement the increases and were we not to do so, HM Treasury would reduce the Scottish budget by an estimated £35m every year for teachers’ pensions alone.

“We recognise the concerns that teaching unions have expressed and welcome their continued participation in the negotiation process.

“The Scottish Government has done everything possible to explore options for pension reform with teachers’ unions and employers over the past 12 months. It is clear, however, that the significant constraints placed on us by HM Treasury have limited our opportunities to do this without adversely affecting the overall value of pensions across all Scottish Teachers Superannuation Scheme members.”