Today, Education Secretary Michael Gove answered an urgent question about the proposed teachers’ strike on Thursday.
I have a lot of sympathy with all public servants who feel angry that they are being asked to pay - in terms of a pay freeze, higher pension contributions and an increased retirement age - for the financial mess the previous Government got the country into.
However, striking is hugly disruptive to working parents and particularly difficult to justify when negotiations are ongoing. And there is a case for reform based not just on the deficit but on rising life expectancy.
The fact that we’re living longer is obviously good news but it has huge implications for retirement. In the 1970s, when a civil servant retired at sixty they could expect to claim a pension for around twenty years; today, when they retire at sixty they can expect to claim a pension for nearly thirty years and that trend is going to continue. If we want decent pensions when we retire, we are all going to have pay in more and work longer. The Government needs to negotiate with the unions in good faith - and recognise the particular pressures of certain professions like teaching - but clearly it wouldn’t be fair for people in the public sector to retire much earlier than anyone else.