Teachers at the private school formerly attended by First Minister Humza Yousaf will take strike action on Friday amid a continued dispute over “fire and rehire” claims.
Educators at Hutchesons’ Grammar School voted earlier this month to overwhelmingly back industrial action.
Some 78% of teachers at the school opted to strike, with a turnout of 86%.
According to the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), it’s the first time in Scottish history that staff at an independent school have gone on strike.
The school, which charges fees of up to £14,000 per child, was attended by the First Minister and Anas Sarwar, who also sends his children there.
The Scottish Labour leader, who had previously written to the school about his concerns over the new pension scheme, joined picketing teachers in the morning.
The union has accused the school of using “fire and rehire” tactics against its staff. The school denies this.
According to the EIS, Hutchesons’ issued letters to teaching staff over the Easter holiday period, dismissing teachers from their contracts and telling them to sign new contracts, with inferior pension provisions.
Any teacher who declined to sign the new contract would no longer have a job at the end of the school year, the trade union said.
The row centres over the school’s withdrawal from the Scottish Teacher Pension Scheme.
Hutchesons’ insists the move is needed to ensure the institution’s costs remain sustainable.
Andrea Bradley, general secretary of the union, said: “The fact that EIS members at the school backed strike action so convincingly, and have taken to the street today in protest at the school’s actions, demonstrates the strength of feeling amongst teachers at this damaging enforced change to their terms and conditions of employment.
“The school’s actions throughout this process have been shameful – from launching a consultation amongst staff which they then ignored the result of, to issuing ‘fire and rehire’ letters to teachers over a holiday period, to telling staff that their jobs would be advertised if they did not sign up to new inferior contracts within a very limited timescale – the management of the school have demonstrated that they do not value the views and contributions of Hutchesons’ highly dedicated and highly professional teachers.
“The school must now think again, reverse its course, and reinstate teachers with their previous contractual terms and conditions.”
The situation has also prompted strike action from teachers in the NASUWT trade union.
A Hutchesons’ spokesperson said: “The board of governors is extremely disappointed that the EIS union and some of its member teachers at Hutchesons’ have taken strike action.
“The board also strongly rejects accusations of ‘fire and rehire’. The school carried out a 60-day consultation which is longer than legally required to ensure it was a thorough process and not rushed. It included both collective consultation and individual consultations.
“The board has been very clear that the reason for withdrawing from the Scottish Teacher Pension Scheme (STPS) is to cap pension costs at a sustainable level to protect the jobs of teachers going forward.
“From discussions with the EIS on Wednesday when the rector and the chair of the board of governors met with a senior official, they do not believe the union shares their aim of protecting teachers’ jobs.
“Protecting teachers’ jobs in the long term was the rationale for withdrawal, that rationale remains the same today and going out on strike to express their unhappiness at the decision will not change that rationale.
“Indeed, strike action threatens the school roll, which in turn threatens teachers’ jobs.
“The board took the difficult decision to withdraw Hutchesons’ teachers from the Scottish Teacher Pension Scheme to cap a significant cost. That decision was taken following a 60-day consultation period with staff. All but one member of staff accepted the change to pension.”
The spokesman said that while Hutchesons’ is in good financial health currently, it is “necessary to take the hard decision to withdraw from the STPS to ensure that this continues to be the case”.
The spokesperson added: “The school is facing a number of financial headwinds, including the ongoing impact of the Government’s decision last year to remove rates relief and increased supplier costs across the board.
“The recently agreed national teachers’ pay award of 14% was higher than anticipated but we are pleased to have been able to implement it and indeed backdate it.”
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