Socialist Worker

After Birmingham politicians attack strikers - Labour should back workers, not bosses

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2490

Small Heath strikers joined junior doctors picket lines in Birmingham this morning, Wednesday

Small Heath strikers joined junior doctors' picket lines in Birmingham this morning, Wednesday

Senior Labour Party figures in Birmingham have launched an attack on teachers at Small Heath school who are defending their union rep against victimisation.

NUT union members began a three-day strike yesterday, Tuesday, in defence of Simon O’Hara. Bosses suspended Simon on 7 January in what the union sees as a clear attempt to victimise a union rep who has led a campaign against academisation.

Workers at the school have held several strikes since May last year against plans to turn the school into an academy. Their determined struggle forced bosses to retreat.

But they have thrown fuel on the fire by suspending Simon and suspending another NUT member a few weeks later.

This is an attack on union organisation and a fight for every trade unionist. Yet Birmingham Ladywood Labour MP Shabana Mahmood doesn’t seem to think so.

She has called on the NUT to call off their strikes to defend Simon. Accordng to Mahmood, the strikes are “not proportionate”.

But it is the bosses who have been disproportionate by suspending teachers.


Labour councillor for Selly Oak Brigid Jones also weighed in. She said the NUT was “crossing a line” to defend a union member. Jones said the union should look to the disciplinary process to defend Simon instead of workers’ action.

But unions are right to strike to defend union members – and they should expect the support of the Labour Party when they do so. Many strikers were rightly furious at the attacks from Labour on the picket lines this morning, Thursday.

The best way to beat bosses’ attacks is by fighting back.

Recent strikes elsewhere have successfully stopped victimisation of union reps. Strikes won PCS union rep Candy Udwin’s reinstatement at London’s National Gallery. And walkouts stopped bosses at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies from victimising Unison union rep Sandy Nicoll.

It is a disgrace that leading Labour figures should tell union members to stop fighting for their rights. They should be turning their fire on vicious bosses, not trade unionists.

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Wed 10 Feb 2016, 12:04 GMT
Issue No. 2490
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