Over 1,500 NEU union members at 23 private schools run by the Girls Day School Trust (GDST) completed a three-day strike on Thursday. They are fighting to protect their membership of the Teachers’ Pension Scheme and against their bosses’ fire and rehire assault.
The GDST plan is to force teachers to transfer onto a worse scheme that would cut pensions by at least 20 percent on average each year.
Striker Sara told Socialist Worker, “GDST teachers have never struck before, but we understand that attacks on our pensions and fire and rehire threats would create a brain drain and an inability to recruit additional teachers.”
She added, “Cheryl (Giovannoni, the GDST CEO) has caused this and must listen to our voice and withdraw her plans.”
This round of action follows a brilliant day of strikes two weeks ago—before half term. On Wednesday strikers were joined by Forest School workers in east London who are fighting for pensions in a parallel dispute.
Kester Brewin, NEU rep at Sydenham High school, addressed a 300-strong central London rally on Wednesday saying, “Change is a challenge, it’s going to be difficult, but we deserve the Teachers’ Pension Scheme.”
He added, “They can end this dispute by meeting our reasonable demands. Honour our contracts and let us return to teaching.”
Since the first strike date, GDST bosses have offered teachers £2,000 and the ability to stay in the pension scheme—but only until September 2023. John Richardson, NEU national officer for the independent sector, described this as a “bribe”.
“For 17 years I have been the lead negotiator with GDST, that was 17 productive years until now,” he told the rally. “The intention to fire and rehire staff was an act of bad faith.
“They say they don’t have any money but found a £2,000 bribe to give up your contractual rights. We say, ‘keep your bribe’.”
Many teachers on the rally and picket lines held placards and banners reading, “Hands off our pensions.” They chanted, “Cheryl, Cheryl, Cheryl, out, out, out,” and “Let’s be loud and clear, pensions or we disappear.”
With more strikes next week on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, the teachers remain determined. They have the will to escalate to beat back these attacks and win the pensions they are entitled to.
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