Monday, November 05, 2012

London round-up

Teachers fined for doing their job

MEMBERS of the teaching unions NUT and Nasuwt at Stratford Academy in Newham took strike action last Thursday over punitive fines that had been unfairly imposed on them by the school’s governing body.
 Following a lawful national ballot, teachers at Stratford Academy, like the overwhelming majority of teachers right across the country, are making a stand against undertaking tasks that distract them from their core role of teaching, and which do not require their skills as qualified teachers.
 The teachers at Stratford Academy have continued to prepare for and teach their lessons, mark and assess pupils’ work and carry out all those tasks which, in their professional judgement, assist them in focusing on teaching and learning.
 All clubs and activities which teachers run voluntarily in their own time are continuing.
 Yet despite this, punitive financial deductions have been made from teachers’ wages by the school governors.
 Not only has 15 per cent of their salary been cut, but teachers have been subject to actions by the governors and school management which they have found grossly unprofessional, threatening and intimidating.
 Not one single pupil has had their education disrupted or compromised by anything the teachers have done prior to being forced to take strike action.
 The teachers have no wish to disrupt the education of pupils, but they have been forced into this position by the unreasonable, punitive behaviour of their employer.
 As a result of this, the NUT and Nasuwt, representing the overwhelming majority of the staff, have been forced to issue notices of strike action in protest at these unfair and unjust actions and to seek the withdrawal of these punitive financial deductions.
 Christine Blower, NUT general secretary, said: “The teachers at Stratford Academy are dedicated and committed to the young people they teach.
 “Instead of penalising and punishing them, the governors should focus on pressing the Secretary of State to resolve the national trade dispute and end his relentless attacks on the teaching profession.”
 Chris Keates, Nasuwt general secretary, said: “The teachers at Stratford Academy have been seeking to defend their pay and conditions, as part of a national trade dispute with the Secretary of State in which the overwhelming majority of teachers across the country are engaged, without any disruption being caused to pupils and parents.
 “The teachers deeply regret the disruption pupils and parents now face but it is entirely due to the hostile and vindictive actions of the governors and school management.”
Pensioners rally in Westminster

HUNDREDS of pensioners from all over Britain descended on Westminster on Wednesday to lobby their MPS to defend universal pensioner benefits like the bus pass and the winter fuel allowance.
 The lobby was organised by the National Pensioners’ Convention (NPC) to address the suggestions that have been made by the Liberal Democrat deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Tory backbencher Nick Boles and Labour’s Liam Byrne that these benefits should in future be means-tested.
 The NPC claims that the debate so far has been dominated by half-truths and misinformation, aimed at grabbing headlines.
 The protest aimed to inform MPs of the facts surrounding the issue:
• There are approximately 11 million older people over state pension age living in the UK, of which around 4.5 million pay tax at the standard rate and fewer than 250,000 pay at the higher rate. The remaining 6.4 million have an income below £10,500 and do not pay any income tax at all. The universal benefits are therefore essential for the majority of pensioners, even those with incomes above the level of the Pension Credit of £7500.
• Taking the bus pass away from the likes of Sir Alan Sugar; given that he doesn’t use one anyway, will do nothing to save money. Instead this smokescreen is being used to introduce widespread means-testing and represents part of a wider attack on the welfare state and would ultimately hurt some of our most vulnerable older people.
• The revenue collected by the state from older people, either directly through a range of taxes or through costs that older people bear that would otherwise be paid by the state, adds up to a staggering £175.8 billion every year, compared to total expenditure on older people through pensions, welfare payments and health care of £136.2 billion. The overall, annual net contribution by older people to the economy is therefore almost £40 billion – and is estimated to rise to almost £75 billion by 2030. Most importantly, this is more than enough to pay for the £8 billion worth of age-related benefits that are now being questioned.
• It should be acknowledged that many of these universal benefits have been introduced over time because successive governments were reluctant to improve the state pension system. Having one of the least adequate pensions in Europe has almost forced governments to provide additional support to its older population, or witness the inevitable rise in pensioner hardship.
• Even if benefits were taken away from the majority of pensioners, the amount of money saved would be questionable given that the introduction of a means-tested system would involve setting up a costly bureaucracy to administer the payments (especially if people’s assets were to be assessed) and the chance that losing a bus pass or a winter fuel allowance could inevitably lead to some older people needing extra support from social services and the NHS.
 Dot Gibson, NPC general secretary said: “This idea that the country’s economy is struggling because an army of millionaire pensioners are joy riding with their free bus passes is absolute nonsense. The economic crisis is being used as an excuse to undermine the welfare state and roll back some of our hard earned gains – many of which are necessary because the UK has one of the worse state pensions in Europe.

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