Socialist Worker

Support victimised NUT rep Simon O'Hara—and defend trade union rights

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2496

Simon OHara on the picket line with Small Heath strikers last month

Simon O'Hara on the picket line with Small Heath strikers last month (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Teachers at Small Heath School in Birmingham were set to meet on Tuesday of this week to discuss further action to defend conditions and union rights.

The NUT union members have been striking repeatedly against school bosses. They took part in several strikes against plans to turn the school into an academy.

Their action forced bosses to retreat—but management suspended NUT union rep Simon O’Hara.

Workers at Small Heath, and the NUT, see this as victimisation of an effective union rep.

It is a matter of national importance that a union activist has been suspended for carrying out NUT policy.

And as the Tories unveil plans to force every school in England to become an academy, it’s crucial that the union fights to defend its reps.

Bosses lifted Simon’s suspension earlier this month—exposing how flimsy it was to begin with. They then promptly suspended him again.

Workers have shown that they are prepared to fight.

They held three three-day strikes to demand Simon’s reinstatement before the NUT suspended the action. They have shown they are prepared to escalate their action too.

Walkouts

NUT members met earlier this month and overwhelmingly backed a plan to up the strikes from three-day to five-day walkouts in defence of Simon.

Unfortunately the national union refused to implement the collective decision of the branch. Several NUT members met on Wednesday of last week to discuss the dispute and how it can move forward.

They were set to consider a motion supporting an indicative ballot against oppressive management at Small Heath school at Tuesday’s meeting.

Many have told Socialist Worker that they feel intimidated at work and would feel safer with their union rep reinstated.

Workers are also concerned about changes bosses may impose at Small Heath if they get away with weakening the union.

Teachers are right to resist Simon’s suspension—and to take determined action against it.

The dispute isn’t just about one union rep. It is about defending the right of all workers to organise and for unions to take action.

But there is a danger that demoralisation can set in if the national union doesn’t make clear that it is fully behind the fight. Workers need to feel that there is a strategy to win.

The NUT is one of the biggest unions in Britain. It has the strength and resources to generate overwhelming support for Small Heath teachers and pile the pressure onto school bosses.

This fight can be won—if the union urgently steps up the struggle.


Walkout sees bosses back off in Wolverhampton

Teachers in the NASUWT union at St Peter’s Collegiate School in Wolverhampton struck on Wednesday of last week.

They planned further action. But the school announced on Monday that “a solution has been found which enables the school to fund staff pay and progression entitlements.”

The picket line was large and upbeat. Many workers had never struck before but were “up for it, to win.”

One said, “All of a sudden the employers want to talk, having avoided meeting us up to now.”

A union official said the school had been given funding to lift up teachers’ pay in line with national pay awards.

But it had not passed the money on to staff and then claimed not to have it.

David Wyatt


Watch out for action in Lambeth

Workers at Lambeth College in south London were set to strike on Thursday of this week. The UCU union members are fighting excessive lesson observations.

UCU rep Mandy Brown is told Socialist Worker, “We’ve been boycotting lesson observations since November. But now management have started to target our new union members.

“They keep rescheduling new observations every week. It’s really stressful.”

Send messages of support to mandybrowncow@hotmail.com

Left candidates elected to NUT's executive

Socialist candidates Stefan Simms and Anne Lemon were re-elected to the NUT’s national executive committee last week.

Left candidates Simon Murch and Jess Edwards were also elected.


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