Teachers strike at Canterbury private school
Teachers at The King’s School Canterbury, went on strike for a day last week, with further industrial action planned, in a dispute over pensions, Kent Live has reported.
The teachers maintain that management is taking a “coercive and unfair approach” over pension negotiations, with the school insisting contract changes are required.
King’s includes a secondary school, Junior King’s prep school, and King’s International College – with teachers across all three institutions walking out for six days in June. In autumn last year the school also opened King’s School Shenzhen in China.
The striking staff are members of the National Education Union (NEU) which is not recognised as the union for academic staff at King’s, 80% of whom voted for strike action on a 60% turnout.
Michael Cox, NEU’s representative for staff at the school and a maths teacher, said: “It’s been a very difficult time for the staff. I’ve had staff in tears over it, I’ve had colleagues incredibly upset that they’re being treated in the way they are, that they feel undermined and undervalued, that they are questioning whether the school is a place that they want to work at anymore.
“I’ve had people terrified they’re going to be dismissed over this because they look at the proposal and say ‘I can’t sign that proposal, it cannot work for my family, if I do this I won’t meet my retirement plans, I won’t be able to pay for my mortgage’.”
Governors want changes written into contracts and according to the union they plan to force the changes through with ‘fire and rehire’ tactics.
Cox said: “They’ve made it clear to us that fire and rehire is still part of the process, that they are prepared to use it if enough people do not voluntarily sign over.
“We’re not here out of self-interest, we’re not here asking for a pay rise, we’re not asking for more money, we are asking for protection for our colleagues from this coercive and unfair approach that the school governors have decided to use.”
A spokesman for King’s School said: “Like many independent schools, we have been consulting on the Teachers’ Pension Scheme for five months so far. The governors greatly value our teachers and the immense contribution they make to King’s. It’s important to note that many teachers have welcomed our proposals.
“While we recognise their right to take industrial action, we are saddened that a small group is striking, not least because the process of consultation continues and no final decisions have been made. We continue to work hard to seek an agreed position with the unions and our staff.
“To continue to thrive, we need to be financially responsible, especially at a time of rapidly increasing costs of energy, food, building and wages. On top of this, there is the impact of the current pension scheme itself, which already adds almost a quarter to the cost of salaries.
“The pension options we are proposing offer a strong alternative which do not increase the cost to the school and which are attractive to staff. We believe the new defined contribution scheme is amongst the most favourable schemes in the independent sector.
“We have put robust contingency plans in place, meaning that the welfare, exams and lessons of our pupils have not been affected by this action.”