Central Foundation Girls School (CFGS) in Tower Hamlets, East London, has triggered a significant confrontation with trade unions in the borough by announcing a restructure which could see 13 workers lose their jobs and large numbers of support staff face pay cuts.
Bosses claim that the school’s budget is in a terrible condition, forcing them to make cuts. But unions at CFGS have taken the view that the restructure is less about a financial imperative at CFGS and more about the borough-wide education funding priorities of Tower Hamlets local authorities. Unions insist that attacks faced by CFGS workers today will be replicated across the borough if CFGS succeed in forcing cuts through.
Unison, which represents non-teaching staff in the school, has launched a speaker tour of CFGS worker-activists around other all other schools in the borough to warn workers of attacks they may soon face and build solidarity. Meetings of Unison and the National Union of Teachers at CFGS have returned near-unanimous votes in favour of strike action against the cuts. There is a firm belief that CFGS has been chosen as the first in line for cuts because it has the strongest NUT and Unison organisation across the borough. Bosses feel that if they can beat the unions at CFGS, they will be better placed to beat them elsewhere.
The local NUT and Unison groups are now appealing to their national unions to action strike ballots.
The conservative regime within Unison has meant that permission for strike ballots has been much harder to come by in that union than in NUT, another indication of the lack of democracy within the UK’s biggest public sector union.