There have been a few news items recently in relation to possible strike action, which could affect a large number of staff, students, governing bodies and school leaders in schools and academies across the country next term.
Potential Strike Action Over Teachers’ Pay
A proposal for teachers to strike over pay in September is on the horizon amid concerns relating to the delayed announcement about teaching salaries from the Department for Education (DfE).
It is thought that the DfE is struggling to a find way of providing a funded pay increase, and even if a pay increase is proposed for September 2018, then it would be below the 5% increase that has been requested by teachers’ unions.
It is understood that the unions are already preparing for a ballot regarding industrial action over pay. They have also collectively written to Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, requesting to know when the information will be published.
Strike Action In Schools
The DfE published guidance regarding industrial action in schools in September 2016 for school leaders, governing bodies and employers.
The guidance encourages school leaders to take reasonable steps to keep schools open for as many students as is practicable during strike action. It also outlines the laws relating to ballots, strike action, pay and picketing. We would encourage any schools facing the possibility of strike action to read this as a useful reminder of the do’s and don’ts for managing staff during this time.
In addition to the DfE guidance, we advise head teachers and school leaders to communicate clearly and effectively with their employees in advance of any approaching industrial action, confirming their rights and pay entitlement.
Strike Action Against “Super-Union”
We are used to hearing about unions threatening strike action within schools but here is a reminder that the unions themselves are employers and don’t always manage to keep their employees happy.
The National Union of Teachers (NUT) and Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) came together to form the National Education Union (NEU) last September. The aim of merging the two unions was to create a joint union that politicians could not ignore and would be forced to listen to. In the past, the NUT has been seen to be the more “radical” left-wing union, whilst the ATL have traditionally taken a more moderate approach. After less than a year, the differences between the two groups and plans to restructure have already resulted in discontent among staff.
Former ATL members have already voted in favour of strike action, with the first walk out due to take place today. However, it now appears from reports earlier this week, that their former NUT colleagues have also voted in favour of striking in a consultative ballot.
With the possibility of industrial action in both sections of its workforce in the coming academic year, this may have a knock on impact on NEU’s ability to support its almost 500,000 members.
How Can Nelsons Help?
Laura Evans is a specialist Education and Employment Law Solicitor at Nelsons. She has significant experience in advising schools and academies planning for and dealing with industrial action as well as communicating with unions on a day to day basis.
If you require any further information about the subjects discussed in this article or if you have any other employment law or HR queries, please contact Nelsons’ Education team on 0800 024 1976 or contact us via the online form to find out how we can help.