By Thomas Foster
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Hackney school strikes can teach management a lesson

NEU union members are fighting bosses’ restructuring plans in the east London borough
Issue 2906
nine people on a picket line in Hackney, east London illustrating an article on Hackney school strikes

Hackney school strikes: education workers on The Garden school picket line

Education workers in Hackney, east London, are striking for better working conditions and against restructuring plans.

NEU union members at The Garden School, which provides education for children with autism, struck on Wednesday and Thursday over excessive workload. They are set to strike for three days next week.

There was a lively picket on Thursday of around 15 workers. They sang, “Solidarity forever, for the union makes us strong.”

Vanessa, an education worker at The Garden School, told Socialist Worker that staff are striking “for better work conditions”. “We’ve been asking for a directed time calendar, which is a calendar that coordinates our work hours, since October,” she said.

Vanessa said staff are frustrated at management for failing to deliver. “We’ve had three different managements in less than a year,” she explained. “All we got from them is promises of ‘It’s coming’. It’s bad management and bad practice.

“The NEU did a calculation—each person at the school is doing nearly three weeks of overtime.” And so workers struck because “we weren’t being listened to and they were ignoring us.”

Meanwhile, around 20 education workers at St Dominic’s primary school in Hackney are set to strike over workload and redundancies, with six days of strikes planned.

Carly is a teacher at St Dominic’s school and was at The Garden school picket showing solidarity. She told Socialist Worker that workers are fighting against a restructuring plan with management trying to “downsize staff”.

“This is the third year in a row,” she explained. “The last two years, staff accepted what was happening. This year, people are pushing back.”

This year there are separate consultations for management, teachers and administrators, meaning “it’s a non-transparent consultation process”, Carly said.

Management is “proposing that teaching assistants cover more and more work” in the new plan”. “While doing that, they are effectively promoting two assistant head teachers,” she said. “The lowest paid workers are getting more work while those at the top are getting promotions.”

“Staff are fed up. There’s a collective spirit, where everyone is sitting together and discussing it together.”

NEU members at the BSix sixth form college in Clapton, Hackney, voted to start an indicative ballot over protecting terms and conditions for future workers.

It comes as BSix is set to merge with New City College. Existing workers’ contracts will be protected for now, but bosses want to employ all new staff at BSix on worse further education (FE) terms and conditions.

Dave, a NEU union member, told Socialist Worker, “This will create a two-tier workplace as FE terms are worse. It’s a £9,000 a year difference in pay. Current workers want all future staff to be employed under teacher conditions.

“And different contracts worsen collective bargaining. We want to protect education workers.”

And workers at the nearby Oldhill Community School and Children’s Centre primary are moving to a formal ballot to strike over a restructuring plan, after winning an indicative ballot with 88 percent turnout and 100 percent yes vote. “Staff recognise that restructuring plans would lead to compulsory redundancies and extra workload,” said Dave. “We want to push back against that.”

Education workers are right to resist bosses’ plans—the best way to do that is to strike.

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