Teachers at First Minister Humza Yousaf’s former school have voted to strike in a row over pensions.
The EIS teaching union said it plans to draw up a strike programme on Friday after 78% of its members balloted at Hutchesons’ Grammar School in Glasgow backed strike action, on a turnout of 86%.
The vote comes amid claims the independent school is forcing teachers to agree to new contracts which would see their pensions downgraded or face dismissal and is using fire and rehire tactics.
The school has strongly rejected the accusations of fire and rehire and pension downgrades.
EIS general secretary Andrea Bradley said: “This is a very strong ballot result, which demonstrates the determination of EIS members at Hutchesons’ to stand up for their contractual terms and conditions in the face of attacks by an aggressive management regime.”
She added: “The actions of the school – in engaging in ‘fire and rehire’ tactics with its dedicated teaching staff in order to force them onto inferior contracts – are reprehensible and will continue to be resisted fiercely.
“As a result of this decisive ballot result, the EIS Emergency Committee will meet first thing tomorrow morning to discuss a programme of strike action at the school.
“The management of the school must now listen to the school’s teachers and reverse its damaging programme of fire and rehire, and reinstate teachers on their previous terms and conditions, including their pension provision.”
Ms Bradley claimed if this does not occur teachers there will have “inferior terms and conditions” compared with other independent schools and state schools, which she said had already resulted in some staff leaving.
She added: “Parents at the school must also be wondering why a fee-paying school, which is apparently in good financial health, is choosing to hack away at the contracts of the school’s teaching staff, causing upset and uncertainty, and unsettling the delivery of education at the school which is likely soon to be significantly disrupted if strike action by members at Hutchesons’ Grammar is sanctioned by the EIS tomorrow.”
Last month, 87% of NASUWT members at the school voted in favour of strike action.
Both Yousaf and Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar are former pupils of the school, which charges fees of up to £14,000 per year.
Sarwar has previously said the school should “see sense” over the alleged policy.
A Hutchesons’ Grammar spokesperson said previously its board of governors “strongly rejects” the fire and rehire and inferior pension accusations and said the school is offering “a different pension, not an inferior one”.
The school said it is offering an employer pensions and benefits contribution rate of 23.8%, compared with the Scottish Teachers’ Pension Scheme (STPS) rate of 23%.
It also claims to double the death in service benefit offered by the STPS to six times annual earnings and offers three years of income protection when a teacher is unable to work for an extended period of time.
A teacher at the school will also have their remaining pension pot paid into their estate when they die, the school said, with flexibility of early retirement also offered.
A Hutchesons’ spokesperson said: “We are obviously incredibly disappointed with the EIS ballot result however the school’s position remains that, in the absence of any viable alternatives, and none were identified by teaching staff during the consultation process, current financial headwinds mean it is remains necessary to cap one of the school’s biggest costs going forward. There is a limit to what we can charge in fees without our school roll dropping which would result in the loss of teaching jobs. The board wishes to avoid the job losses which are currently happening elsewhere in the independent sector and indeed the state sector too.
“The Board is confident the school is offering our valued teachers one of the most generous defined contribution schemes in the private sector. The EIS ballot opened prior to the final opportunity staff had to accept the change to their pension. All but one teacher accepted the change to pension, choosing to remain at Hutchesons’. Our staff have always maintained that they do not wish to strike, and we remain hopeful in this regard. We note there were inaccuracies in a recent union release to their members about the pension scheme, and need to confirm that they have an accurate understanding of the headwinds facing independent schools.
“The school met with the unions and ACAS and has requested the latter carries out an independent ballot on whether teaching staff wish the school to voluntarily recognise the three unions. ACAS have intimated this request to the unions, and we await their response.
“No date for industrial action has been given to the school however we will begin planning for any possible industrial action to ensure continuity of learning for our pupils whose education is our priority.”
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