NEU and the Tower Hamlets dispute

Submitted by martin on 30 June, 2020 - 2:18 Author: David Pendletone
strike on 3 July

The proposed Tower Rewards scheme will see Tower Hamlets council workers sacked on 6 July and re-employed on worse terms and conditions, specifically a significant reduction in severance pay and reduction in payments for out of hours working.

It will affect school workers. The council denies it will. It claims that each school will make its own decision. It is highly unlikely that schools will not follow the council's lead. It will also, almost certainly, immediately affect the centrally-employed school workers: peripatetic teachers and specialist support services.

The NEU has around 35 members who are centrally employed. The slashing of severance pay could be a precursor to restructuring and large-scale redundancies.

When Tower Rewards was originally announced at the beginning of the year, Unison, NEU and GMB, quite rightly balloted their members for industrial action. Unison and NEU got positive results which beat the anti-union laws thresholds. That indicated the willingness of members to fight against this assault on their terms and conditions.

Both unions were preparing to strike when the Covid crisis struck. The unions then suspended the action, and, after some hesitation, the council postponed the implementation of the scheme to "the summer".

Now the council has re-started the process and Unison has declared strikes on 3, 6, and 7 July. Shamefully, the leadership of Tower Hamlets NEU have demobilised their membership.

Despite knowing of Unison’s intention to strike they didn’t inform their reps and members until late in the day, and then demanded that they make a snap decision on whether they could win strike action in their schools. As they posed this question to their reps, they emphasised all the obstacles in the way of successful action. Unsurprisingly, they largely got the response they wanted, with only two schools suggesting they could win action.

The leadership of Tower Hamlets NEU also suggested that the centrally-employed school workers might strike. Understandably, those workers were willing to strike alongside all NEU members in Tower Hamlets but not to go it alone.

The approach of the leadership of Tower Hamlets NEU is a disgrace. They have undermined the fighting instincts of their members and almost certainly lost them significant terms and conditions. They have also left Unison to fight alone.

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