Letchworth teachers begin six-day strike over pension scheme withdrawal
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Teachers at St Christopher School in Letchworth have begun a six-day strike today over plans by their employer to withdraw from the Teachers' Pension Scheme.
The proposals to withdraw from the TPS will leave teachers at the school with inferior pension entitlements, which will not provide them with the same benefits and securities in retirement.
According to headteacher Emma-Kate Henry, the dispute arose after TPS raised its employer contributions from 16.48 per cent to 23.68 per cent.
She said: “We are deeply disappointed that, despite our utmost efforts, St Chris teaching staff who are members of the NASUWT union have decided to take industrial action on today, with a handful of members not coming in to school.
"The dispute has arisen because, after an extensive and open year-long consultation process with teachers including the St Chris NASUWT union representative, the school’s governors decided to withdraw St Chris from the TPS in December 2020.
"From September 2019, TPS raised the employer contributions to teachers’ pensions by 40 per cent, which for St Chris equated to a rise of over £221,000 for 2019/20. The new pension scheme offers teachers an employer contribution rate of 16.5 per cent, supplemented by death in service cover, taking the total value of the package to 18 per cent.
"The school’s governors did not want to take the decision to leave the TPS, and fully understand the difficulties the decision has caused for some members of staff.
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"However, as an independent school and charity, the school does not have the luxury of being supported or underwritten by the government or any other large group with respect to pensions or other financial support, and the majority of income comes from our current parents.
"We have been working tirelessly to find a solution to the teacher’s dispute, and also to put in to place a plan for today that caused the least disruption to our pupils and their families.
"However, we had to take the difficult decision to close our senior school for the day to ensure pupil safety. Our junior school has remained open.
"The industrial action has, of course, created understandable upset and anger among our pupils and their parents, so close to the resumption of full time schooling. Our priority is the continuing education of our pupils at what has been a highly disrupted time, and our main focus will continue to be on providing the best possible outcomes for them.”
Mike Metcalfe, NASUWT national executive member for Hertfordshire, said: “These proposals are unjustified and will leave members significantly worse off in retirement.
“The NASUWT does not want to be taking strike action, or indeed any industrial action, at this time in particular. However, the refusal of the employer to work with us to address the concerns of members has left teachers at the school with no other option in order to protect their terms and conditions.
“All teachers are entitled to a decent pension and the NASUWT urges the employer to recognise the strength of feeling and rethink its plans.”