Monday, 6 June 2011

With a heavy heart I fill in my ballot paper..........

I wasn't going to blog about the strike ballot that's going on at the moment, but, this is a blog about a working mum and my job is teaching, so I shall.

When I started teaching I joined a very moderate teaching union that never, ever strikes and has always dealt with issues in a calm, rational manner whilst keeping us informed of the facts. I never wanted to be faced with a decision about whether to strike or not. Unfortunately, the government have decided to making sweeping changes to our pensions without any consultation and are not prepared to even give the unions vital information to understand their plans, never mind consult us or negotiate with us, so I find myself in a position of being balloted to vote about strike action for the first time in my career.

I'm not going to go into all the complexities of the problem, and believe me, it is complex, but I'll give you a quick precis in case you don't know what's going on.

To start with there is the fact that I will have to find an extra £1000 a year to pay into my pension (why? when we had a review of teacher pensions that we accepted in 2006 to ensure the future viablility of the scheme) or leave the teacher pension scheme altogether, there is the changing of the way they calculate the pension we will receive and future pension increases that mean I am going to be far worse off than I had planned for. Not to mention the fact that the government say I may not be allowed a pension at all!!

This is a big moving of goal posts. When I chose a career in teaching I accepted that I would earn less than my friends in other graduate professions, but that I would get good holidays and a half decent pension at the end of 40 years of lower pay.

However, the big one that scares me to death is the increase in retirement age. I know very few teachers who manage to keep going beyond the age of about 57. Most change to part time in their fifties to cope with the workload, stress and exhaustion before retiring early (on an actuarily reduced pension). It just isn't a job you can physically do for forty years.

Now, I've been teaching for eighteen years and in that time, in amongst all the coughs and colds, I've had the following:

  • I've developed asthma from using chalk
  • I've suffered two bouts of tendonitis in my shoulder (from writing on a board) so severe that I threw up with the pain
  • after one cold I suffered Post Viral Fatigue Syndrome for almost a year and was unable to do anything but work and sleep
  • two years ago, following a cold, I suffered Chronic Bronchitis for six months
  • I suffered a bout of debilitating migraines that led to my being on medication that knocked me out for ten hours a night
  • after being forced to cover lessons for a sick colleague on top of my own timetable I suffered Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • I've currently got Plantar Fasciitis in my foot which can't heal because I'm on my feet all day
  • I've been rushed to hospital in an ambulance with chest pains and an irregular heartbeat
And I'm only 41.

Do you think I can teach until I'm 68?!!

I reckon it's the government's way of making sure that all teachers die before they retire and then they won't have to pay the pensions at all!


Mrs Average said...

Me again..... another subject I can utilise both my horse and several soap boxes for!!

Although not a teacher, I work in the education sector for a local authority. I ended up taking strike action about my penion a few years ago (I hate to say it but it didnt help).

My support once again; teachers are grafters (I see good ones slogging every day). Bet it feels like a slap in the face with a wet fish. It may seem like you are heading for an extreme course of action..... but I think you are doing the right thing.

Maggie May said...

Although you can't compare my work (in the past) with yours.....I worked till 69 and there has been a toll on my health (I could have finished at 60) but hadn't a works pension as I'd worked part-time & looked after my children till they were older. Women did in those days.
So I am about to give up work as my husband is sick and I have had enough! However I will miss the small amount of money that I earned.

I have seen how people are manipulated in schools ... teachers & non teaching staff alike.... and it seems to me that *they* are piling more and more responsibility & things to do for no extra pay on their staff.

A thing that bugged me when I was on playground duty....... that we were told to run a group and *teach* children activities.
We were all being paid a pittance for supervising....... none of us were teachers.

Go for it, I say.
Maggie X

Nuts in May

Crystal Jigsaw said...

D'you know something? I reckon you're right. I don't trust this government as far as I can throw them, they are useless. Cameron and Osborne have a constantly arrogant look about them while the other buffoons couldn't run a p&%* up in a brewery.

It is a worry. But you're not alone.

CJ xx

libby said...

I despair of this seems to me that they can do what they like and the consequences for ordinary people beggar belief..

Kirsty said...

I have so many concerns about education right now. I try not to worry about it too much because I love my job but I wonder how long we can go on like this. I'm not sure how similar the situation in England is to that in Scotland but with the changes they are talking about making we'd have less holidays, lower wages and less to look forward to at the end of our working lives. How can education attract top quality teachers if this is the case?

mater familias said...

I've just done my own ballot paper tonight too. I also consider myself far from militant, (think I must be in same union for same reasons) but there are some things I don't feel I can be a doormat about.

auntiegwen said...

I was absolutely exhausted as a teacher and I think the only reason I wasn't off sick was because I worked part time. Although I don't think there was a ever a week where I did anything remotely close to the hours I was paid for. And now my daughter is just finishing her first year of her teaching degree and I wonder what her career will hold for her.

carolmiers said...

Many people in different jobs are finding that the goal posts have changed. That is, having agreed that to give your hours and time in exchange for the 'pension' in return, someone says Oh sorry I can't keep to my word any more so I am changing our agreement. How come that is legal? If all teachers in the country stopped work for only one month there would be complete chaos.
Here in France teachers have one day off a week from contact time and having taught myself, I think that is needed. A blanket retirement age across professions does not work. A woman here with a daughter teaching French said the same thing, would she really be expected to manage groups of teenagers at 68 years old?
I don't think anyone can not get involved with strikes or other action any more because there's no integrity in what's happening and the cuts could go somewhere else.

Working Mum said...

Anonymous - Interesting that you weren't brave enough to leave your name! I choose not to publish anonymous comments, but I will reply that I did mention the holidays and in all those ailments I've had about 6 days off work (try teaching 130 teenagers a day with chronic bronchitis, I did, for six months!)

Fran said...

Have enjoyed looking at some of your posts. I identify with your thoughts here on striking - I too joined a 'moderate' union (perhaps same one). I think if there are more strikes come the Autumn I might change to another one.