The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), the country’s biggest teaching union, was due to start a ballot on Monday (March 11), saying its members were being expected to contribute more to their pensions but to work further into their 60s and receive less.
Pension reform is not a devolved issue but the union had hoped the Holyrood government would help clinch a better deal than south of the border.
Larry Flanagan, EIS general-secretary, said: “The EIS remains committed to seeking a resolution through ongoing negotiations with the Scottish government. However, little progress is being made and the possibility of the talks breaking down without agreement is very real.
“While we continue to hope for a negotiated agreement, we will also be ready to continue the fight for a fair deal by the use of further industrial action if required.
“I would urge all eligible EIS members to use their vote in this important ballot and to vote ‘yes’ for industrial action to send a strong message to the Scottish government.”
Mr Flanagan added: “The EIS rejects the possibility that teachers should be forced to work until 68, or even later, in order to access decent pensions.”
Scottish teachers held their first national strike in 25 years in November 2011 over pension reform. A second, statutory ballot would be necessary before any industrial action could be taken if the first ballot, which closes on 26 March, shows a majority in favour.
Frustration among teachers and lecturers over the Scottish government’s position has risen at the same time as schools get ready to introduce new exams under Curriculum for Excellence.
A Scottish government spokesman said: “We do not think that industrial action is in the best interests of pupils or parents.”
Earlier this year, School Leaders Scotland (SLS), which represents more than 700 headteachers and deputies, also criticised the pension changes, saying they would make the recruitment and retention of the best leaders harder.
SLS had “deep concerns” over tiered contributions, which would require its members to pay up to an extra £1,600 a year in contributions without any rise in their pension.