The personal learning network for educators
On Wednesday there will be many an educational professional wrestling with their conscience. Do I strike to make the only protest I have against the cuts to my pension and the financial well being of my family or do I go in and make sure that my kids at school get the best that I can offer as a teaching professional.
This is the mindset of the vast majority of education professionals and within that term I capture all those dedicated public servants who work in schools.
As the strike nears the government are getting ever more desperate in their attempts to gain the public sympathy vote. The trouble is that we, as public servants are the public! By doing so their rhetoric becomes increasingly confrontational. The Unions don't want a stand off despite what Maude, Alexander and Cameron think but aggressive and confrontational rhetoric damages the relationship with the Unions and working people who know the truth about what the government are trying to do and could take years to rebuild. Essentially they are playing Russian roulette with the future of public services and industrial relations.
What the government are proposing is to charge public servants up to £200 per month more for their pensions. The incentive for this is the privilege of being able to work til we're 68 and the abolition of the final salary scheme which is advantageous because these three years are the most financially productive usually.
This is essentially a pay cut. Quite how the government can say there is no more money on the table for public servants is beyond belief and suggests the government are trying to kid the public at large into thinking public servants are asking for more money which is completely untrue.
If you then add the above to the pay freeze which the public sector accepted to help the country out of the mess it is in and the deal on pensions some 5 years ago which saw the value of pensions fall, you get a sense of why public sector workers are so angry.
For some years now the Unions have asked the government for a valuation of the Teachers Pension scheme. They seem to be unable to calculate this, in contrast to the estimated cost of the strike to the country. They produced this data overnight! The truth of course is that pensions as they stand are sustainable, they'd just rather we couldn't statistically prove it. In fact since 1983 £46 billion more has been paid into the TPS than has been paid out. Unaffordable? Not at all.
Essentially the government want public servants to bail out the mess made by the mismanagement of successive governments and the bankers.
There are clearly going to be significant consequences for public sector workers who will have to find extra funds if these plans go ahead. However longer term we are going to find that, despite finding it difficult to appoint headteachers now, no ambitious graduate is going to see working in the public sector as being financially rewarding enough and will go into the private sector. For all the green eyed complaints of the private sector, the employment landscape has changed in education. No longer is a job in education a job for life. Forced academies can see staff made redundant. My role requires as much as 30-35 hours additional unpaid work a week. the compensation for this was a decent pension. Not gold plated but something to look forward to retirement with. My experience of working in the public sector is that this extra work is usually recognised through bonuses or overtime. Maybe we should all claim overtime and see what the bill is nationally for this!
Of course after Wednesday where do we go? My favoured position would be a work to rule. However most weeks if I did my working week (37 hours) and then went home I'd have to close the school at 10am on Thursday and most educators put in well in excess of their alloted hours. Why? Because they care about children.
However there is going to be a time when they have to put their families first and this may see a move away from working in the public sector. The public sector will be poorer for it.
Therefore I ask you to think about two things before you make your decision on Tuesday night.
1) Can your family afford to find as much as £200 per month extra for no additional benefit. £2400 per year? If you are paying the government this, what will you or your family do without?
2) Can the profession afford to let these changes go through and see the great educational professionals we currently have in school disappear into the private sector or other employment as inevitably will happen.
The government know this will happen and have admitted it but their answer to this simply belies their allegiances.
If we make the bankers pay, they'll all move to Switzerland, teachers won't do that!