Workers at the London Design and Engineering (LDE) free school are taking action to demand the reinstatement of NEU union rep Sharon Morgan.
LDE is part of the mammoth UCT chain. The director summarily sacked Sharon. And he is still refusing to take Sharon back despite an Employment Tribunal ruling in her favour.
NEU union members at the east London school have been forced to take action to get her reinstatement. Teachers on the picket line during their third strike day on Wednesday told Socialist Worker why they are backing the action.
One striker said, “We have intimidation, bullying and a lack of voice for staff. Hopefully we will get our rep back and then we can start to move forward on workload issues.”
Another teacher described stressful working conditions. “We have days with five to six periods, and back to back lessons,” they said. “We’re expected to stay marking until 5pm but we are too exhausted.”
It’s not surprising that staff turnover is very high. Nearly the whole middle leadership layer left in the summer.
A more experienced teacher said, “They have recruited so many newly qualified teachers, who aren’t really aware it doesn’t have to be like this.
“There’s no respite between lessons, no transition period. You have to rush from lesson to lesson, sometimes between three floors, without time to clear up and set up.
“There are a lot of issues to be addressed. For me staff wellbeing is a priority.”
An NEU wellbeing survey conducted at LDE had found that 100 percent of members had suffered some symptoms of work-related stress.
“I felt I have to do what I can to make things better where I am,” said one picket. “There are so many ways it could be better. I know I can’t solve things on my own.”
Louise Cuffaro, Newham’s NEU secretary, spoke to an NASUWT member who stopped at the picket line during this week’s strike.
She asked the worker to ensure that no NASUWT member covered classes of fellow trade union members on strike, and encouraged them to get organised. A letter to NASUWT members is planned.
The attack on Sharon is a matter for all workers, regardless of their union.
As one teacher put it, “It’s a matter of human rights. Everyone has to have a safe space to be able to challenge those you depend on for your living. For certain causes, you have to stand up.”
Students going in greeted their teachers, took leaflets and confirmed they had signed the petition in support of Sharon.
Workers have not even been allowed a union noticeboard. Sharon explained how the union group has managed to organise, given the lack of time and relentless pressure workers are under.
“Most of the meetings happened before term started,” Sharon explained. “The timetables we were given in July were untenable. We were trying to discuss these and other issues when I got my dismissal letter.”
Further strikes are planned for 8, 9 and 10 December. NEU London region organiser Michael Gavan said, “In the face of management intimidation, people are still standing strong.”