Teachers at Bedford Greenacre Independent School take strike action over "fire and rehire" claims

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Union claims members have been told they will be sacked on Tuesday if they do not accept inferior terms

Teachers at Bedford Greenacre Independent (BGI) School are striking on Tuesday and Wednesday (April 23 and 24).

Members of the National Education Union (NEU) say it’s over fire and rehire tactics deployed by their employer as well as a dispute regarding their pensions. They’ll stand at the picket line between 7.30am and 9.30am.

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The school has said its priority is to 'limit the impact' of the stike action on pupils and parents’.

Bedford Greenacre Independent SchoolBedford Greenacre Independent School
Bedford Greenacre Independent School

Paul McLaughlin, regional secretary for the NEU, said: “It is with reluctance that NEU members are having to take strike action to protect their pensions. Our preference is always to resolve issues through positive discussions, yet, despite our efforts, the governors have declined to enter into negotiations.

"The employer has written to members indicating they will be sacked on Tuesday if they do not accept inferior terms. This is no way to treat loyal hard working and dedicated teachers and is not acceptable to our members. A resolution to this dispute will only come about through dialogue and we call on the governors to get round the table and flesh out a solution that works for everyone.”

Deirdre Murphy, Bedford branch secretary for the NEU, added: “Bedford district absolutely support the teachers at BGI School in their fight to maintain the pension provisions they rightly deserve. Our members have been placed in an unacceptable position where fire and rehire has become a reality.”

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Elizabeth Coley, chair of governors at BGI, said: "Bedford Greenacre Independent School is committed to providing a sustainable pension scheme for our valued teaching staff. The consultation has been implemented because the Teachers' Pension Scheme (TPS) has introduced high increases to employer contributions, so the governing body has been forced to review its pension arrangements.

"The options we have provided are fair, more flexible for employees and the level of employer contributions remains extremely competitive."

According to the school, the TPS employer contribution rate has risen from 23.68 per cent of teachers' salaries to 28.68 per cent - following an earlier increase from 16.48 per cent to 23.68 per cent. It says this increase would be funded from fees parents pay – and said it considered the increase "unsustainable".

Mrs Coley added the school had no plans to remove the TPS and said staff could choose whether to remain with it or move to a new scheme that would “enjoy the same benefits they currently have with the TPS”.

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She said: “The governors feel this a personal choice based on individual financial circumstances and, as such, the consultation process included independent advice from experts about how both pension schemes operate."

A statement from the school added: "The school has encouraged an open dialogue with teaching staff, with the Governing Body happy to answer questions raised and even going so far as to provide details of pay increments earlier than usual, which allows the teaching staff to make an informed decision about whether they wish to remain in the TPS or transfer to the new provider.

"The Governing Body is disappointed that the National Education Union (NEU) has suggested industrial action. However, the Principal and those leaders and teachers not striking, together with the support staff, will work around any strike action to ensure their pupils are well cared for and to minimise disruption for parents. We know that any teacher's decision on industrial action will not be an easy one for them to take but as we say above, we are disappointed that some of them are going down this route given that we feel our pension offering is generous and highly competitive in the sector and given that we have undertaken a full consultation process."

Mrs Coley added, "Our priority is to ensure that our pupils receive excellent care and education. We also wish to provide our teaching staff with a fair pension scheme. We will continue to work closely with our parents to ensure they are fully informed and their children supported during this period".

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