Socialist Worker

Strikes are back on after Stem 6 school bosses renege on union recognition agreement

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2389

Teachers at a north London free school were set to strike on Wednesday and Thursday of this week.

The workers at Stem 6 Academy in Islington had postponed walkouts after bosses last week agreed to recognise their NUT union.

But management reneged on the agreement on Tuesday of this week.

Workers say the principal, John O’Shea, has claimed that the school will be closed on Wednesday “because of the Tube strike”.

Ken Muller is assistant general secretary of Islington NUT. He said, “This game playing must stop. Teachers are angry at the disgraceful way in which they are being treated. 

“They are prepared to take action.”

Workers had threatened to strike on Thursday of last week but suspended the action after bosses agreed to recognise their union.

Alex Kenny is a member of the NUT’s national executive committee. 

He told Socialist Worker, “Management at Stem 6 wrote to the union when the strike notice was put in saying they weren’t prepared to recognise the union.

“Six days later they wrote to us saying, ‘We are willing to recognise the NUT’.”

The letter, from John O’Shea, continued, “We would be willing to sign a formal recognition agreement.”

Zero

Talks were set to continue over what are effectively zero hours contracts at the school. One teacher at the school spoke at an NUT reps’ meeting in London last week. 

“We accepted our jobs before the summer but we only got a contract in November,” she said.

“When we received the contracts, we said we wanted to give feedback as a collective. 

“We were told we were not allowed to speak as a collective, we would have to speak individually to the headteacher.”

She said workers “voted with our feet” and refused to sign them. “But we were told there would be legal consequences if we didn’t sign them.”

The worker said the fight for union recognition and decent contracts has been “exhausting”. 

But she stressed that unity was key to pushing bosses back. “Every decision that we made, we made it collectively,” she said.

“We had so much public support.”

The fact that bosses were forced back last week shows that the threat of action can get results. As Ken put it, “Workers have shown that you don’t just have to roll over and give in.”

Workers plan a further three days of strikes next week.

They urgently need solidarity and support from the wider trade union movement.

Rush messages of support to ken-muller@blueyonder.co.uk

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