Teachers at Small Heath school in Birmingham have voted to escalate their anti-academy strikes following the victimisation of NUT union rep Simon O’Hara.
The NUT has agreed to hold weekly three-day strikes at the school. The first is set to start on Tuesday of next week.
Management suspended Simon on Thursday of last week. He faces allegations of gross misconduct but the exact charges remain unclear.
Many workers and union members see his suspension as an attempt to undermine resistance at the school.
One teacher at the school told Socialist Worker, “People were initially shocked. Since then people have been angry.
“All Simon was doing was representing teachers’ views. We feel we have to do something to defend him.”
NUT members at the school met on Monday of this week. They unanimously backed escalating strikes in an ongoing dispute to stop the school becoming an academy.
One teacher told Socialist Worker, “The attack on Simon is an attack on the NUT and on all of us.”
Simon has opposed unreasonable management practices and helped lead a battle against the school converting to academy status.
Teachers in the NUT, NASUWT and ATL unions have struck for five days over this issue so far. Two days before Simon was suspended NUT members had agreed to another four strike days.
Bosses want to break the action and hope that targeting Simon can help them do that.
Kevin Courtney is deputy general secretary of the NUT. He told Socialist Worker, “Simon is a dedicated teacher and a longstanding NUT rep.
“He has been leading official strike action at his school over proposals for it to become an academy.
“Management suspended him in what we can only see as an act of trade union victimisation. It’s vital that all teachers and all trade unionists get behind the campaign to get Simon reinstated.”
Simon quickly won widespread support. Over 1,600 people signed a petition demanding his reinstatement within four days of suspension.
Longstanding local campaigner Salma Yaqoob said Simon has been a “valuable asset to the school, loved and respected by pupils and parents alike”.
Support staff at Small Heath school have said they also want to take action following the suspension.
One teacher said, “I’ve been surprised by how passionate a lot of the staff are about this.
“Simon has got a lot of support. He’s got a good reputation in the school, he’s professional and he’s got a good relationship with the children.”
Birmingham NUT secretary David Room said Simon’s suspension was a “desperate attempt” to break teachers’ resolve. It has failed.
Doug Morgan is assistant secretary of Birmingham NUT. He told Socialist Worker, “The attack on Simon has made teachers more committed.
“NUT members are clear that they are prepared to take action to defend Simon and to continue their campaign against academisation.”
As one Small Heath teacher said, “They’ve underestimated people. We’re now doubly angry with the management.
“If they can do this to Simon, they can do this to anybody—so we need to win.”