Labour’s Bell Ribeiro-Addy joined teachers on the picket line at Streatham and Clapham high school on Thursday morning to oppose changes to teacher’s pensions.
These changes to pension schemes are expected to lead to a reduction in entitlement, with some claiming by an average of 20%, though these figures are disputed by the education trust.
The Girls’ Day School Trust (GDST), which runs the high school along with 22 others across the country, is threatening to leave the national Teachers’ Pension Scheme (TPS), significantly reducing teachers’ pension entitlement.
GDST CEO Cheryl Giovannoni said: “Sadly, the increase to the TPS employer costs has had a severe impact on our expenditure and has put us in a very difficult position.
“We understand the strength of feeling amongst our teachers over this issue and of course the concerns raised by our parents.
“We care deeply about our teachers and would not have put forward these proposals unless we felt they were absolutely necessary to support the long-term sustainability of the GDST family of schools.”
Speaking from the picket line at the school, Bell Ribeiro-Addy was far from happy with the proposals.
She said: “Threatening teachers with job losses if they don’t accept big cuts to their pensions is no way to thank them for their hard work during the pandemic.”
Teachers have been left angry and upset at the proposal, after the trust announced its intention to use fire and rehire tactics should they fail to agree to the new terms.
This included one English teacher at the school, who said: “We’re on strike because we care. We are the best investment a school can make, not an inconvenient cost.
“If we don’t stand up now, then we are failing all the teachers who come after, depriving all the girls who come after, and failing our future selves who have worked so hard in the face of adversity, condemning them to a miserable retirement instead of spending their final decades in comfort.”
These fire and rehire tactics were of particular concern to Bell Ribeiro-Addy, with the Streatham MP adding: “I’m really concerned to see more and more employers using fire and rehire during the pandemic – not just as a last resort but as a first port of call.
“GDST need to sit down and negotiate with teachers and the Government need to legislate to end fire and rehire once and for all.”
With 75% of affected staff being women, there are concerns from unions that changes to pension schemes will exacerbate existing pension inequalities suffered by women.
The strike action was agreed to after 95% of GDST teachers voted in favour in a ballot conducted by the National Education Union.
However, GDST are hopeful of reaching an agreement to avoid any further strikes.
Cheryl Giovannoni said: “We hope that once Trustees make their decision at the end of February, we can reach an agreement with the NEU and with our teachers and that strike action after that date can be avoided in order to minimise disruption to our students’ education.”
Further action is currently planned across GDST schools on 23-24 February and 1-3 March 2022.
Feature image credit: Office of Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP