Worcester's MP has thanked those teachers and heads who have come to work today to keep some local schools open but regretted the disruption caused to Worcestershire families by a day of action called for by a vocal minority of union members.
None of the unions striking today received the support of more than half their members for strike action as turnouts in all the ballots were low. The BBC has reported that only around one third of all union members in the affected unions actually voted for strike action.
The detailed breakdown of unions and the proportion that actually voted to strike is:
•o Unison & Unite: 23 per cent of members voted to strike
•o GMB: 28 per cent of members voted to strike
•o NASUWT: 32 per cent of members voted to strike
•o NAPO & Prospect: 37 per cent of members voted to strike
•o NAHT: 40 per cent of members voted to strike
•o FDA: 44 per cent of members voted to strike.
The government has offered improved terms to public sector workers, protecting all accrued rights, making no changes people within ten years of retirement and giving special protection to people on low incomes. However higher life expectancy does mean that people will have to pay more to receive the same pension and the Hutton review has recommended that there needs to be a combination of higher contributions and longer working to make pensions work over the long term. The former Labour minister commented on the government's latest offer that "it is hard to imagine a better deal than this."
Robin has received letters from some teachers who are not striking and urged the government to keep up negotiations in good faith, accepting that pension reform is necessary to make quality pensions affordable and sustainable. He has also written back to teachers who are joining the strike pointing out to them that negotiations are continuing and that their action will cause great disruption to people and families across Worcestershire.
Speaking today, Robin said
"Nobody wants to see pensions being cut and the whole point of the reforms that the government is suggesting is to make sure that high quality pensions are made sustainable and affordable over the long term. It is vital that unions and their members engage with this process and rejoin the negotiations so that a sensible and reasonable solution can be reached. Many of the people whose lives are being disrupted by today's strikes will have no chance of getting the kind of pension that people are going on strike to preserve and will be mystified that usually dedicated public sector workers are leaving their posts."
"To be fair to local teachers, I do understand how very hard they work and I absolutely accept that they deserve decent pensions. The problem is that a hardline minority in the unions are using their legitimate concerns to pick a political fight. Now is not the time for posturing. It is a time for serious negotiations and progress to be made on fixing a long term problem. I commend those dedicated individuals who have turned up to work today and want to thank them on behalf of all those people, pupils, parents and families they will have helped."