Teachers at Bishop Challoner school in East London are balloting for strikes against management bullying.
Union activists say that the atmosphere in the workplace has become so bad that many of the school’s most experienced and longest-serving teachers are considering leaving.
Since the appointment of a new head three years ago, and subsequent management restructure which replaced the old senior management with new managers loyal to the head, and with no ties to the staff, workload and stress has steadily increased.
Members of staff spoke to Solidarity and told us about a litany of smaller and larger scale intimidations and attacks from the management, including a change to absence procedure that triggered a back-to-work meeting with the head after just one day’s absence. All out-of-school activities were stopped for a year, locks were changed on the lifts (demonstrating management’s lack of trust in the teachers), and the counselling service for students was wound up. Most recently, audio capture has been installed on hallway CCTV cameras.
A strong campaign by the National Union of Teachers group in the school stopped the head’s plan to hold a “mock Ofsted” inspection in autumn 2012. Union members voted to strike if any mock inspection took place and the head eventually backed down. As a consequence, prominent NUT reps have been victimised.
In December 2012, several union meetings voted overwhelmingly for strike action in informal votes, and an indicative ballot of NUT members returned a 90% majority for strikes on a turnout of over 66%.
The NUT has now sanctioned a formal ballot for discontinuous (i.e. extendable) strike action. The ballot began on Wednesday 8 May and runs until 23 May, with a strike due to begin in the first week of June if the expected majority is returned. The demands of the strike will focus on changing the culture in the workplace as well as winning justice for victimised reps.
One school worker told Solidarity: “We want our school to be a good place to work where the children and staff are properly treated; that’s what Bishop Challoner teachers are fighting for.”
Northern Rail: sack the agencies not the workers!
Rail, Maritime, and Transport workers union (RMT) members working for Northern Rail have begun balloting for strikes in a dispute against casualisation.
Northern Rail bosses have increased their use of agency and sub-contracted labour for core railway work, which the union argues should be carried out by properly-trained staff. RMT argues that Northern Rail’s use of the Trainpeople and G4S agencies breaches workplace agreements.
RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: “There is a cynical drive to use casual, agency staff to undermine job security, pay, and working conditions on Northern Rail and our members are furious that not only have the company refused to stop this practice but they are driving it forwards.
“RMT has made it crystal clear that casualisation and a breach of our agreements are an outright attack on all of us and will not be accepted in any way, shape or form. This union will not allow Northern management to carry on with these practices which are divisive, exploitative and solely about maximising profits.”
It is vital that the strike is fought on the basis of securing in-house employment and proper training for agency staff, rather than simply booting them off the job. A recent and ongoing dispute involving Trainpeople staff on London Underground is instructive; when 33 Bakerloo Line workers employed by Trainpeople were sacked when London Underground cancelled the agency’s contract, LUL bosses were able to point to a union-negotiated policy that called on them to get rid of the agency at the earliest possible opportunity, but did not explicitly commit them to taking the agency workers (some of whom had been in the job for five years) into direct employment. The “Justice for the 33” campaign’s slogan has been “sack the agency, not the workers”. The RMT must fight the Northern Rail dispute under the same banner.
The strike ballot closes on Monday 20 May.
Brighton council workers fight Green cuts
Brighton Council’s ruling Green Party group has blocked with the Tories to attack workers’ pay.
Their “final offer” to unions on 29 April would see some of the lowest-paid staff lose £95 per week.
The offer comes after months of negotiations, following a decision by the Council’s Policy and Resources Committee in January to implement a “modernised pay and conditions package” for staff. Labour councillors voted against the decision.
On Tuesday 7 May, the council emailed workers threatening mass dismissal and re-engagement if they did not accept the new terms.
The GMB union is preparing for industrial action against the cuts.
It has also organised a public petition which will be presented to the Council.
Local government unions are preparing to recommend acceptance of a 1% pay offer.
Unison voted by a majority of one to recommend the deal as “the best achievable”. Activists are organising to overturn the recommendation and fight for rejection.
Fourth Post Office strike
Crown Post Office workers struck for a fourth time on Tuesday 7 May as their dispute over 800 job losses and an ongoing pay freeze continued.
The Communication Workers Union wants a pay increase of 3.5% in year one followed by a further increase of 3.25%. The union also wants to prevent the closure of 75 Crown Post Offices.
Accepting the offer would cost the Post Office £5 million; it was recently forced into an embarrassing climb-down when it had it admit an internal circular claiming the CWU’s claim would cost £12 million was incorrect.
Celebrating May Day
Cleaners from several University of London colleges held a lively rally on May Day that visited SOAS, Birkbeck, and the university’s flagship Senate House building to hear testimonies from cleaner militants about ongoing struggles.
They included activists from Unison and the Independent Workers’ union of Great Britain (IWGB, formally Industrial Workers of Great Britain).
A cleaner from the University of London IWGB branch involved in the 3 Cosas campaign also spoke at the May Day party organised by trade union campaign website LabourStart on Saturday 4 May.