NUT members at Thorp Academy in Gateshead took strike action on Friday in defence of colleagues threatened by compulsory redundancy - Tony Dowling reports
A lively and solidly attended picket line formed outside Thorp Academy in Gateshead on May Day, gaining much support from passing motorists.
Following a unanimous ballot for action, NUT members at the forced academy took strike action on Friday in defence of colleagues threatened by compulsory redundancy.
Since becoming an Academy, run by Northern Education Trust (NET), the school has faced massive cuts in staffing and pay due to budget problems. And in January the academy management announced a proposed restructure, with 22 teachers at risk of redundancy.
The unanimous ballot for strike action by NUT members forced some changes, reducing the number of compulsory redundancies from 22 to 2. But teachers were angry that NET intended to push ahead with compulsory redundancies of two colleagues and decided to take action.
As one of the strikers at the school gates said, “This is a question of solidarity. It could be any one of us next time.”
Teachers at Thorp Academy argue that redundancies will inevitably lead to an increase in class sizes and add to a workload crisis which already sees secondary teachers working an average of 56 hours per week.
NUT Representative, Tony Dabb says: “It is with a heavy heart that NUT members have decided to take strike action. They deeply regret the disruption which will be caused to pupils’ education. However, they feel very strongly that no member of staff should have to leave the school against their wishes.
“Members opted to take a half-day strike, rather than a full-day, to minimise the impact on students while making their opposition to compulsory redundancies absolutely clear.”
The trust's proposals will also see cuts to the pay of several members of teaching staff through re-grading or removal of responsibility posts, as well as a further increase in workload for staff, as class sizes and teaching hours are increase.
Northern Education Trust has cut the pay of ordinary teachers, and claims it cannot afford to keep the two threatened part-time teachers.
Despite these claims, however, NET has appointed a new temporary Executive Principal who commutes by air between the school in the North East of England and the south coast.
The dispute continues with NUT and NASUWT members meeting next week to decide on whether to escalate their action.
Tony Dowling is a teacher, socialist, trade unionist, antifascist, anti-war & anti-cuts activist. He is currently chair of North East People's Assembly and a member of Counterfire.
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