Anyone following the current debate over the Teachers’ Pension Scheme could be forgiven for thinking that teachers and lecturers have vast, gold-plated pensions.
Yet the very same ministers who have told my members that their pensions are unsustainable seem quite happy to have presided over an increase in the income of the richest 1,000 people by 18%.
How dare they call us gold-plated? How dare they to preach to us about fairness? And who are they to lecture us about letting our students down. We would be letting our students down if we failed to stand up for fairness and let the government get away with teaching on the cheap.
In playing to the gallery, they are avoiding dealing with the substantive grievances that teachers have. Our members are being asked to work longer for less and will see thousands wiped off the value of their pensions as they are moved to the lower Consumer Price Index (CPI).
These changes are unfair, un-agreed and downright unnecessary.
For all the talk of gold-plated pensions the percentage of national wealth spent on public sector pensions is due to fall from 1.9% of GDP in 2010-11 to 1.4% of GDP by 2060 as a direct result of the deal struck between the unions and the last government in 2006.
Moreover, the National Audit Office estimates that the changes agreed between the unions and Labour will see a reduction in the cost to taxpayers by 14% over next 50 years.
The government have from the outset refused to negotiate in good faith and its steadfast reluctance to carry out a valuation of TPS has prevented meaningful talks from taking place.
Our members are unlikely militants and I take no pleasure in asking them to vote yes for strike action.
However, we cannot stand back while their pension schemes are raided in order to boost treasury funds and pay for a crisis they did not create.