A formal strike ballot of National Education Union teacher members working in the Girls' Day School Trust (GDST)'s independent schools has shown overwhelming opposition to the employer's plan to withdraw from the Teachers' Pension Scheme (TPS). 

95% of NEU teacher members voted in favour of strike action, on a turnout of 84%. This was a single ballot covering all 23 independent schools in the Trust. (1) 

Potential dates for discontinuous strike action are still to be decided. These would constitute the first days of strike action in the Trust's entire 149-year history. 

Under the proposal to leave the TPS, teachers will be at least 20% worse off on average in terms of the annual amount they receive in pension payments. 

Teachers have seen a steady decline in their standard of living over several years with pay increases below inflation, including a pay freeze last academic year. If they were to lose the Teachers’ Pension Scheme as well, their pay and remuneration would be significantly worse than local state schools. 

Financial accounts for the Trust, in the public domain, show Trust finances in good health. There is a healthy annual cash surplus. The Teachers’ Pension Scheme, which is a contractual right of GDST teachers, is affordable. 

However, the Trust wish to spend heavily on capital expenditure at the expense to their teachers and leaders. 

Staff are also angry that their employer has threatened them with a policy of 'fire and rehire' to drive these changes through. (2) 

Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said: 

"We call on the Council of the Girls' Day School Trust to withdraw the proposal to leave the Teachers’ Pension Scheme. 

"This is an exceptionally strong mandate. The Trust should reflect on just how a large body of committed and hard-working staff have reached this point. Members are resolved and rightly determined to defend their pensions. 

"We sincerely hope that strikes can be averted. We call on the GDST to withdraw the proposal to leave the Teachers’ Pension Scheme." 

Editor's Note 

(1) 

The formal postal ballot ran from 10 to 26 January 2022. The question put was: 

"Are you prepared to take part in sustained and discontinuous strike action in furtherance of this dispute? 

"Change to conditions of service [withdrawal from the Teachers’ Pension Scheme and/or variation to pension provision]." 

GDST own 23 independent girls’ schools across England and Wales. 71% of its teaching staff are members of the NEU, as of December 2021. Only teachers were eligible to vote in the indicative ballot. The NEU also represents staff at GDST working in other capacities. 

GDST also owns two former independent schools which became academies. They have separate legal status and do not have the option of leaving the TPS, so their teaching staff are not part of this ballot. 

(2) Notice under Section 188, Trade Union, and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 was given to the NEU even before a word was exchanged in consultation. In a letter to the NEU dated 22 September, the GDST wrote (our italics): 

"As you will be aware, the GDST is required to provide further information concerning the consultation, and in particular about the proposed change to terms and conditions of employment. Under section 188 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, the GDST must consult with the NEU as the appropriate representatives of the affected employees. 

"We hope the proposal to vary terms and conditions can be agreed through the collective consultation process with the NEU. However, where agreement cannot be reached during the consultation and the GDST changes an employee's terms and conditions by issuing contractual notice and re-engaging affected employees on the proposed terms of employment, such a proposal would fall under section 188 of the above legislation, which means we have to provide certain prescribed information. 

"However, the GDST very much hopes, through full dialogue, any variation to terms of employment can be agreed with you." 

ENDS 

2022-014-NEU