30 November: 'Pensions Are Being Stolen To Plug The Deficit' UCU Leader Says
Sally Hunt, University and College Union's general secretary, has branded the government's proposed pension scheme "insulting", in the run-up to the mass public sector walkout on 30 November.
In an interview with the Huffington Post UK, Hunt detailed how the union had been attempting to negotiate for the past 10 months but had only received what she deemed "helpful" information in the past few weeks. Responding to education secretary Michael Gove's comments yesterday which said unions were "itching for a fight", Hunt said she was only trying to get "as good a deal as I can for our members".
"I know some politicians will try to dismiss me but I will not be bullied.
"There is still no credible reason for the 3% tax the government are asking for public sector workers to pay as it is not going into pension funds.
"It is being stolen to plug the deficit which is not the fault of teachers. And then in a year's time the government will turn around and say: 'Look what we've managed to do. We paid off the deficit'."
Hunt described the deal the government is currently offering teachers as "a return to the status quo" and insisted they had so far failed to offer any compromise.
"I am prepared to explore every option based on credible evidence and find a middle ground - that is certainly possible. It will be for our members to decide."
She added the government "seemed to have forgotten" who they are dealing with.
"It is not something you do to intelligent people. Teachers can spot a lie when they see one and I think that is what they are spotting at the moment. It's insulting the government think they can fool people in one of the most intellectual professions out there."
The UCU leader, who was first elected to her post in 2007, defended her members in the face of what describes as an unfair characterisation.
"Teachers are being portrayed as being individualistic and selfish people. But that goes completely against the very nature of their work. Of course they care about disrupting children's education.
"People seem to think teachers have chosen to strike. But they haven't. There is no choice", Hunt added. "I want to understand why it is unreasonable for someone to want to ensure they can pay their heating bills in their old age - which is precisely what they are doing."
But she conceded she would give the government credit where due.
"To have managed to get more women on strike than this country has ever seen before...well, that is quite something."