Teachers at 23 private schools in the Girls Day School Trust have voted massively in favour of strike action. NEU and rs21 member Luigi Brindisi reports.

There is likely to be the first ever strike at the Girls Day School Trust in 149 years. Teachers from 23 of the schools have voted in favour of strike action by a huge margin.

Management have been trying to scare staff into accepting a vastly inferior defined
contributions pension by claiming that the Trust is unable to afford the Teachers Pension Scheme (TPS) any longer, even though they are planning to spend well in excess of £100 million over 3 years on ‘capital improvements’ (renovations and new buildings), they have also leaked information about finances which they asked the union to keep confidential and claimed that the union did not make use of a lengthy ‘consultation’ period, with them constantly asking the union to come up with a better private pension scheme.

They were not interested in listening to the vehement opinion of NEU teachers from the first school union meetings and the online indicative ballot at the end of 2021 – that leaving the TPS was a clear and massive attack on terms of employment which was totally unacceptable.

The result of the postal ballot over management attempts to withdraw teachers from the government backed (TPS) has just been announced with 84% of around 1700 NEU teachers returning their postal ballots, despite issues with the post after Christmas and with the omicron variant of covid-19 raging through the postal workforce.

95% of the ballots returned voted yes to action, meaning 80%+ of teacher NEU members voted to strike, a clear majority of all teaching staff, even assuming everyone who did not get their ballot back in time and all the teachers not in the NEU would have voted against.

The teaching union NASUWT is also currently balloting members in three of the schools.

GDST management are unlikely to back down without a fight.

The action will begin with a one day strike on Thursday 10th February with teachers receiving sustentation (strike pay) for lost wages. There will then likely be a further 2 day strike in the last week of February and a 3 day strike the first week of March.

The NEU is encouraging all striking members to join picket lines and is informing support staff members that they have the right to not cross picket lines without any threat of sanctions by employers, other than a days lost wages, even though the union is unable to legally call a solidarity strike or instruct these members to join the dispute.

This is a key fight to defend the TPS, multi-academy trusts will be looking to calculate their chances of attacking the scheme. Arguably the existence of the TPS is at stake.

Teachers at other local schools, and from any local workplaces should organise to send solidarity delegations to the picket lines and NEU pickets must be asking for solidarity from delivery drivers, postal workers, refuse collectors and other groups, by respecting the picket lines on strike days.

Solidarity donations to help support staff who refuse to cross picket lines should be sent to local NEU branches or the NEU nationally with a clear indication of what they are for. Messages of solidarity can also be sent be sent to local NEU branches.

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