‘We won’t work till 68!’ chanted striking teachers and lecturers on an 8,000-strong march through central London on Wednesday.
The National Union of Teachers (NUT) and University College Union (UCU) were taking joint one-day strike action against the government’s ‘daylight robbery of the Teachers Pension Scheme members.
The front banner read: ‘Fair Pensions for All’ and the march was headed by a giant NUT inflatable with the slogan ‘don’t work longer and pay more to get less’.
As well as hundreds of NUT and UCU banners, there were banners from the PCS, London Metropolitan University Unison, and Unite.
marchers carried placards with pictures of Cameron, Osborne and Clegg with the slogan: ‘Wanted for Daylight Robbery’.
A group wearing grey wigs carried placards saying: ‘Teachers of the future’ and large numbers of placards had the slogan ‘No to 68’ .
News line spoke to some of the marchers before they set off.
NUT member Colett Duffy, from Mount Carmel School, Islington, said: ‘When we had the November strike, we had Unison and other unions out.
‘That showed how strongly people feel about what is going on with the pensions.
‘Today’s strike is really important because it’s the first of many pockets of strikes across the country.
‘We need another national strike but the regional actions will keep it in the news.’
Miranda Harris, an NUT member from Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School, said: ‘I’m very concerned about the profession and how we will attract new people into the profession and support the next generation of learners.
‘The increase in pension contributions and working until 68 will mean people struggling and leaving the profession or dying on the job.
‘With student teachers facing coming out of college with £30,000 plus of debt and a profession where terms and conditions are being constantly eroded, that will only put them off.
‘I’m very concerned about the future for myself and the next generation.
‘We need more national strike action.
‘Labour should back us and all the unions should come out.’
Jan Nielsen, Wandsworth NUT, added: ‘We’re here because it’s totally unfair and unjust what the government is doing.
‘It’s attacking the future of young workers.
‘At the same time, it cuts tax for the richest.
‘The whole of the trade union movement, not just the teachers, should be organising as well.
‘We want united action by all workers, not just teachers.
‘It’s important to win because if they cut our pensions, they’ll come for our holidays, wages and benefits.’
NUT member Hatik Mufa, from Burlington Primary School, told News Line: ‘It’s bad.
‘We’re not happy with the government’s pension changes and we are angry about the way it’s being done.’
Burlington NUT rep Alice South added: ‘Our pensions are affordable. The changes in 2006 were sufficient.
‘There’s been no testing, it’s just a political claim that our pensions are unaffordable.
‘Changing them is completely unfair without consulting us.
‘We would have liked today’s strike to have been national.’
Joe Porter, an NUT member from Queens Manor School, Hammersmith and Fulham, said: ‘We’re on strike today for our future.
‘I think we are being squeezed as an excuse.
‘The Tories are using the recession to attack our terms and conditions.
‘I don’t see how teaching until you are 68 for a whole generation is sustainable.
‘We need to carry on protesting and striking so our voice is continued to be heard.
‘We joined the profession with certain pay and conditions and now the government are taking them away.
‘I would prefer it to be national. I’d support national strike action.’
Fellow Queens Manor School NUT member, Nazareth Granados Juarez, added: ‘I am a specialist teacher.
‘I don’t think when I am 68 I’ll be able to cope.
‘The government it treating teachers like stubborn people.
‘They are asking us to pay more and get less, and that is not fair.
‘We need more strike action and it needs to be national.
‘All the unions have to be involved, not only the NUT.’
Tom Edwards, a NUT member from William Ellis School, Highgate, said: ‘The strike at our school is fairly well supported.
‘We agreed to take part in the programme of strike action. We have to keep going.
‘It was most encouraging that a lot of our A-level students are totally behind the action.
‘I’m going to keep coming out as long as the union wants me to.
‘If there’s support for a national strike, I’ll come out on that – it’s a national issue.’
Richard McEwan, Tower Hamlets UCU branch secretary, said: ‘The pensions cuts are part of a raft of cuts including attacks on pay, conditions and jobs and the privatisation of the Welfare State.
‘We hope the London strike will be the first part of a renewed national campaign of strikes after Easter.
‘We’d like all other unions to come out.
‘The immediate object is to bring out the PCS, UCU, NUT and other smaller unions as quickly as possible and hopefully that will bring the bigger unions to join in.’
Margot Hill, Croydon College UCU rep, said: ‘This has been a long time coming.
‘There should have been national action straight after the last big day.
‘I don’t know what the union leaders are waiting for.
‘At the end of this month, people I work with are going to be losing a great deal of money from their pay packets to pay for the bankers’ mess.
‘There are a lot of people on strike today who can’t afford to join the pension scheme.
‘The changes will make it even more unaffordable.
‘People are striking on principle.
‘The government are robbing the poor to pay the rich.
‘We need national action, we need to bring the unions together like we did before.’
As the march reached Whitehall a group of civil servants came out of their office waving PCS flags to greet the strikers.
Opposite Downing Street a mass lobby by ex-Visteon workers, who had marched from the Unite union head office in Holborn, was demanding pensions justice from Ford.
As well as their own slogans, they shouted greetings to the NUT and UCU pensions strikers as they passed.
The Visteon Pensions Action Group said in its leaflet: ‘Almost three years ago, on 31st March 2009, Visteon Corporation shut down its UK manufacturing operations with the loss of over 600 jobs and the dumping of the Visteon UK (VUK) pension fund, and its 3,400 pensioners into the PPF (Pension Protection Fund).
The leaflet accuses ‘Ford Motor Company, the prior parent company to Visteon’ of ‘conspiring with Visteon Corp’ over the UK plant closures.
It added that ‘the main instigators of the demise of VUK still trade’ and ‘the VUK pensioners are the only pensioners worldwide to lose their pension via this injustice’.
The leaflet states: ‘When Ford spun off Visteon, European agreements governing its long-term viability were pledged but, from that very day, Ford commenced the undermining of these assurances be demanding that Visteon reduce its component supply costs to such an extent that it can be safely stated that the £950 million VUK lost in its short life was a direct gain to Ford.’
The leaflet concludes: ‘Ford guaranteed our pensions, they said they were safe and protected – they now have to meet that promise!’