NEU balloon at Peterloo March for Democracy, Manchester | Photo: Neda Radulović-Viswanatha NEU balloon at Peterloo March for Democracy, Manchester | Photo: Neda Radulović-Viswanatha

For the first time in 149 years, teachers at Girls Day School Trust schools nationally will be walking out. An NEU member in one of the schools tells us why

Around 1,500 teachers who are members of the National Education Union are set to strike in defence of membership of the Teachers’ Pension Scheme (TPS) at 23 independent schools in the Girls Day School Trust (GDST) group. This will be the first strike in the GDST’s 149 year history.

Teachers voted by 95% in a postal ballot, with a huge 84% turnout, in defence of their pensions.

In September GDST management invited NEU representatives to ‘consult’ over continued membership of the government – backed TPS, with a guaranteed retirement income. Within days it became obvious that management were only interested in talking about what private scheme to replace TPS with. All the alternatives presented were far worse than TPS with no guaranteed retirement income.

GDST hopes to save themselves £3 to 4 million a year by this, but are quite happy to plan to spend well over £100 million over 3 years for ‘capital projects’.

Workplace NEU meetings all voted to stay in TPS and managements continued intransigence meant that an online indicative ballot returned a 93% vote, on a 93% turnout, to take strike action. Clearly NEU teachers (over 70% in the 23 schools) did not want to leave the scheme.

Teachers have been threatened with fire and rehire if they didn’t agree to this change in their conditions. Over 60 private schools have seen teachers take, or at least win ballots for, strike action to defend pensions.

This is a crucial battle over TPS as Multi-Academy Trusts will be looking at this dispute to see if they can follow suit. The very continued existence of the TPS could be at stake.

Fire-and-rehire tactics can be defeated in other sectors as well as was shown at Go North West buses last year.

It seems that emerging from Covid lockdown management, many sectors have been expecting workers to continue being compliant, and have often found that the bitterness of government and bosses’ hypocrisy during that period has fuelled a stronger mood for a fight than we have seen for some while.

There have been a series of strikes by refuse workers in recent months for example, many of them successful. GDST NEU (and some NASUWT) teachers will have their first strike on Thursday 10 February and there should be large pickets at each school. It would aid the dispute if other workers respected picket lines, messages of support can be sent to NEU GDST Branch Secretary Kester Brewin ℅ NEU Bargaining Support at [email protected].

Further strikes are planned for 23-24 February and 1-3 March, the last should coincide with strike action by UCU lecturers.

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