Teachers to step up action over pensions
More disturbance is expected in Westcountry schools as teachers' unions prepare for further strike action.
A petition against the Government's controversial changes to the teachers' pensions scheme has already gained more than 12,000 signatures in a week.
The document, on the Government's e-petitions website, is calling on ministers to enter into "genuine" negotiations on the future of the scheme.
It claims that the Government imposed an "arbitrary" deadline on talks and failed to provide additional materials to unions to help find a solution to the issue.
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Ministers and unions have been embroiled in an row over the future of public sector pensions for more than a year.
Teaching unions say that the controversial changes will leave their members paying in more, working longer and receiving less when they retire, while ministers insist that reform is necessary to ensure pensions are sustainable for the future.
Strike action last year saw thousands of teachers join a day of protest by public sector workers worried that their pensions are being slashed by the Government.
Members of the University and College Union will again be asked if they are prepared to take further strike action.
The union's national executive last Friday withdrew its previous call for rolling strikes later this month and on March 1.
UCU members are being asked if they agree with the NEC's recommendation to reject the Government's offer and if they will back more strikes, starting with a one-day national stoppage at the end of March.
The ballot will close in mid March. A number of other unions, including the National Union of Teachers and PCS, are balloting over similar plans.
UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: "The Government's proposals still come up short, even after repeated attempts by the education unions, over months of hard negotiation, to win protection for pensions."
The teachers' petition, set up by Kim Jamson, a NASUWT teaching union official, has received 12,341 signatures to date, after opening last week.
If it gains more than 100,000 signatures it will be eligible for a debate in the House of Commons.
The petition said: "I petition the Government to enter into genuine negotiations on the future of the TPS, including the cost-ceiling, the normal pension age and the future level of employee contributions.
"To achieve a negotiated settlement the Government must accept that further discussions and additional funding are needed."
It also refers to a statement on pensions made by Education Secretary Michael Gove in December setting out an offer on the teachers' pension scheme.
The petition says that unions representing many teachers and lecturers have declined to sign up to this offer.
The Department for Education reiterated that the pension deal was fair to teachers.
However the NASUWT, the National Union of Teachers and the UCU have announced they are not signing up to the agreement and are reserving their position.