Socialist Worker

Union rep sacked after reporting racism

by Sam Ord
Issue No. 2773

John Boken on the picket line earlier this year

John Boken on the picket line earlier this year (Pic: NEU West Mids region on Twitter)


A NEU union rep at Shrewsbury Colleges Group in Shropshire has been sacked after taking a stand against racism in their workplace.

John Boken, who was sacked last week, claimed that he worked in a “toxic workplace”.

As John’s victimisation began workers rallied around him and joined pickets lines at all three college campuses which span across Shrewsbury.

Many protests and rallies were also called in defence of John.

As John’s case developed, staff members understood that his victimisation and subsequent sacking is a part of a wider pattern of attacks on NEU reps.

Criticism

He initially feared raising the complaint of racism as other workers had been forced out of the profession as a result of similar actions.

Wanting to protect his position he complained anonymously.

Following his complaint, John received criticism for union activities such as conducting surveys and visiting other campuses to oversee health and safety measures.

He was also victimised for hosting a meeting about the unsafe return to schools during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Over 1,200 people have signed a petition in defence of John.

John was sacked for receiving student complaints.

John’s manager also refused to speak to the unions and college’s intermediary body to find a resolution.

Disappointing

“Ultimately they have sacked a rep who reported a racist incident,” John told Socialist Worker. “They have come for me to attempt to break the union.

“It’s disappointing and incredibly upsetting but, I hope they reinstate me so I can continue fighting for NEU members’ workplace rights. But more importantly, I want to get back into the classroom doing what I love the most,” said John.

The toxic workplace environment has restricted many workers.

As Shrewsbury Colleges Group workers in the NEU plan petitions, rallies and protests, activists call for the local trade union movement to offer solidarity.

Messages of support to [email protected].Updates can be found on Twitter @NEUWestMidlands

Fight back continues at Oaks Park High school

Eighty teachers and student support staff employed at Oaks Park High school in Redbridge, east London walked out for three more days last week.

Workers who are NEU union members are fighting back against severe bullying from school management that led to the sacking of a rep.

The sacked rep raised safety concerns during the height of the pandemic at the beginning of this year.

Four staff members used Section 44 to refuse the return to unsafe workplaces in January and demanded to work from home. All four were then denied permanent employment positions.

Workers also joined picket lines for three days last week which followed 12 days of action in June and July. Strikers keep maintaining pressure on the council. Last week staff rallied outside Labour MP Wes Streeting’s office and held banners reading, “Stop backing bullies”.

These actions follow a 100-strong protest outside Redbridge town hall which highlighted the Labour council’s refusal to back the workers over the school’s use of strikebreakers.

Redbridge NEU secretary, Venda Premkumar said, “It is shocking to see the school is hiring strike breakers. This is unlawful. Why is a Labour council allowing union busting practices in our borough?”


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