Prison educators win pension victory

28 July 2006

After lobbying by UCU, prison educators have won guarantees that the cost and value of their pension will remain effectively unchanged despite a change of employer.

The teachers, who provide Offenders' Learning and Skills Service (OLASS) in prisons in Kent and Eastern England, had feared that their pensions would be damaged by the transfer of their contract of employment from colleges to a private company, 'A4E', on 31 July.

The staff are members of the Teachers Pension Scheme (TPS), a final salary scheme which A4E is not eligible to continue. The company is obliged by legislation to offer a 'comparable' scheme, but staff had been unhappy with proposed options which they considered inferior to TPS.

Amidst fears that experienced staff would quit prison work for other teaching which maintains their pension value, the University and College Union pressed for a deal with A4E to guarantee pension parity with staff still employed by colleges. Teachers also began writing to MPs and UCU's head of equality and employment rights, Roger Kline, wrote to Education Minister Bill Rammell.

Today, (Friday 28) A4E agreed to an arrangement which will effectively match the teachers' former pensions.

Christiane Ohsan, national official of UCU said: 'This is a good solution and a sensible end to the problem. It shows that persistent pressure and lobbying by the union can achieve results but it also exposes the weakness of the national arrangements for the protection of pensions. There is a lack of clarity about what 'comparable pension' means and it would be worrying if any private bidders for OLASS or other education contracts felt this ambiguity could provide space for cost-cutting. UCU has made it clear that we will challenge any such effort to diminish our members' pensions.'

Last updated: 15 December 2015