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School workers fight from below during election period

School workers are striking in a number of schools during an election where Labour and the Tories aren't promising enough for education
Issue 2911
School workers on strike in Manchester during election period

School workers on strike in Whalley Range, Manchester (Picture: Martin Empson)

NASUWT education union members at William Hulme’s Grammar School in Whalley Range, Manchester, struck on Tuesday and were set to strike on Wednesday and Thursday of this week. Beyond this week, eight more strike days are planned.

Workers are striking against management’s plan for compulsory redundancies at the school, which would include the NASUWT union rep being made redundant.

Around 25 school workers held a lively picket on Tuesday that was visited by local trade unionists bringing solidarity and support. Pickets joked that members of the senior management team have been forced to do gate duty for the first time.

A union rep told Socialist Worker that the union had “made every effort to negotiate” and that “staff were forced to strike because of adverse management practice and the failure of management to stop redundancies”.

Rachel Knight, NASUWT national executive member for Greater Manchester, said, “We believe that the redundancy has only arisen as a result of the mismanagement of staffing by the employer.” She added, “We dispute that there is even a need to cut staff numbers as the school is oversubscribed and workload has not diminished in any way.”

Martin Empson

Strikes on election day

Over 200 school workers in six Catholic primary schools and one high school in west London are set to strike. The Westminster Diocese—a religious district—has signalled it will turn all its controlled schools into academies.

NEU education union members want better guarantees to protect their terms and conditions, but the Westminster Diocese is refusing. They have announced one strike on 4 July. Stefan, an NEU activist, argued it was right to strike on election day. “If Keir Starmer isn’t offering a solution, then we need to present an alternative—we need to fight for ourselves.

“We want to hire an open-top bus and drive round Westminster past Downing Street and Westminster Diocese headquarters in Victoria,” he said.

South London schools battle after closure threat

NEU union members at St Benedict’s Independent School in west London, were set to strike this week to defend their pensions. They struck for two days last week and were set to strike on Wednesday and Thursday of this week and 3, 4, 5 September.

The strike dates were chosen for maximum impact, such as on open evenings. And workers have set dates for September to show management that the fight doesn’t stop at the end of the summer term.

One NEU education union activist said, “The members are confident the school has the money—but it is still trying to smash teacher’s pensions.”

At Villiers High School in west London, 95 NEU union members have voted to strike over poor management practices, workload and victimisation of the school rep. Members voted overwhelmingly to strike to defend the school rep when she faced malicious disciplinary charges last summer.

And this year the school is marginalising and reducing the union rep’s department. The formal strike ballot result was a 68 percent Yes vote with 80 percent turnout.

Pay does not cover duties 

School workers at St Anne’s School and Sixth Form College in Hessle, near Hull, were set to strike this week over a new pay system that doesn’t cover extra duties and responsibilities.

The school provides provision for children with special educational needs and disabilities (Send). Members of the NEU education union were set for 12 days of walkouts, starting on Tuesday to Friday of this week.

The previous pay structure that was in place before 1 April helped retain Send staff and covered extra work and risks not faced by staff in mainstream settings.

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