Teachers have warned the cutbacks will cause redundancies among young staff
By Maggie Taggart
Teachers and employers have warned that cutbacks in paying teachers pensions early will cause more redundancies among young staff.
The government has said the system of giving older teachers generous payments to retire, cannot continue.
Avril Hall-Callaghan, of the Ulster Teachers' Union, said she was concerned about the impact on young teachers.
"We have no mechanism at a time when we are coming up to widespread school rationalisation," she said.
"In Scotland they have the winding down scheme in England and Wales they have severance packages, up until very recently we had the premature retirement scheme."
Teachers have said the pressure of work and frequent changes to their job means they "burn out" early, years before they are due to retire.
In the past they got used to generous packages to allow them to leave in their 50s, but that has been criticised as a waste of public money.
Teachers will not get generous packages to retire
Now the crackdown has begun and the government has already stopped making up missing years in teachers' pension payments.
Next it intends to stop teachers claiming their pensions early.
The government is not saying teachers should not get their pensions early, or get added years on their pensions, but it is saying it will not pay for it.
The employers, such as the education boards, have said they cannot afford to pay for it.
Teachers will not want a huge increase in their pension contributions, and schools themselves are not likely to stump up from their bank accounts.
John Miskelly is chairman of the employers group and he said there would be hard decisions.
"Any teacher, like any employer, who is unable to fulfil their duties and their responsibilities clearly there are steps that can be taken to deal with that - it would be very difficult and one that no employer would particularly wish to do, but at the end of the day the law provides for it," he said.
The problems are highlighted at Donaghadee High School which is due to close in August.
Principal Mervyn Magee has 16 teachers left, a couple have new jobs but the older ones have said they were not being offered enough to retire and the younger ones may find it difficult to find new jobs elsewhere, especially when teachers in other schools are not tempted to retire early and leave posts free.
"Those staff at 58, 56, 57, whatever, probably will not be encouraged to take retirement now because they will not get the full package immediately," he said.
"Thereby the younger staff will not be able to transfer into those positions and that leaves them unemployed - which is devastating for young staff."
The Department of Education has said it has been looking at ways to encourage teachers to leave, perhaps with a lump sum to make up for not being able to claim their pension early.
But it said doing away with the generous incentives to leave is only bringing Northern Ireland into line with England and Wales , who made the changes more than 10 years ago.