Socialist Worker

Leaways school workers score victory after strikes

by Sam Ord
Issue No. 2755

The picket lines united black and white, young and old

The picket lines united black and white, young and old (Pic: Jane Bassett)


Workers at Leaways special school in Hackney, east London, have won an important victory taking over 20 days of strikes since December 2020.

NEU union members stood up to bosses at the Kedleston Group, a chain running 13 schools, despite immense pressure. The sacking of lead union rep Iain Forsyth only increased workers’ anger.

The strength of the strike won the reinstatement of Iain and trade union recognition.

It also won an improved sick pay policy, increasing the amount of sick pay from seven to ten days a year. And workers also gained the introduction of pay scales from September 2021 that mirror the national agreements.

Hackney NEU member Jane Bassett told Socialist Worker, “This is a fantastic achievement. It is a credit to the members and the fight they put up with the support of the union and the local community.

“Kedleston Group runs special schools like Leaways for profit, even though all its funding comes from the taxpayer. They charge over £50,000 per pupil per year—and staff were asking for better provision for their students.”

She added, “This dispute says everything about the way the privatisation of our education system is putting money for our students into the hands of big business.

“And it tells us how the needs of the most vulnerable students in our society are being ignored.”

The lively picket lines united black and white, young and old.

Hackney special school strikers demand improvements for workers and students
Hackney special school strikers demand improvements for workers and students
  Read More

Hackney residents and activist groups also stood in solidarity with the workers, attending online rallies and lobbying councillors. This pressured councillors to voice their concerns and show solidarity with the strike.

Jane describes the fight as not just being about pay and conditions. “It was about education and in particular the crisis in special educational needs (SEN) funding and about the outsourcing of provision to private companies,” she added.

“That's why we should fight for the inclusion of our SEN students in properly funded and resourced provision, where they and staff are treated with respect.”

NEU general secretary, Kevin Courtney praised workers’ “many days of strike action and political campaigning”.

Instead of filling the coffers of private schools, Labour-run Hackney council should spend it on state schools.

That will require a fight—and Leaways has shown that strikes can win.


Escalating strikes in Islington

Teachers at Islington Sixth Form College kicked off escalating strike action on Wednesday of last week with a one-day strike and a big, confident and lively picket.

NEU union members are fighting a management which is seeking to impose increased workloads.

This includes 13 evenings of interviewing prospective students as well as an unacceptable regime of observations.

Management has so far refused to negotiate seriously over these changes. They told staff that they, not the union, run the college and if staff want a say they should apply for promotion.

They even threatened not to pay teachers a recommended pay award if they went on strike.

Maybe senior managers who witnessed the unity and determination last week will now have second thoughts.

If they don’t further, and escalating, strikes are coming.

Ken Muller

Messages of support to [email protected] teachers.org

Nottingham strike against academy 

NEU union members at Nottingham Academy struck last week.

Workers claim that a rushed restructure will be disruptive to students who have already missed out on a large proportion of their education.

Around 30 people joined the picket line waving flags and holding banners reading, “Put teachers first, so they can put their students first.”

The restructure has forced some teachers to reapply for their own jobs.

More strikes were planned for Tuesday and Thursday this week.

Tweet solidarity messages to @NEUEastMidlands

Liverpool university workers prepare for action

Over 1,000 workers at the university of Liverpool are preparing to strike for three weeks from next Monday.

The members of the UCU union will be on strike from 24 to 28 May, 1 to 4 June and 7 to 11 June.

The strikes were called after the university threatened to make 47 staff in the faculty of health and life sciences redundant. Already threats of strikes have forced the university to cut down this number by 15.

Meanwhile, workers at the University of Kent have voted to strike over compulsory redundancies that could equate to 40 members of academic staff losing their jobs.

UCU members voted 78 percent in favour of strikes.

Messages of support to [email protected] and donate to the strike fund at bit.ly/ForLivUCU

 


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