As Tower Hamlet's Council is trying to crack down on the power of organised labour, the NEU is working to help teachers and support staff in the area
Tower Hamlets Council is taking the local branch of the teachers union the NEU to court to try and ban a strike ballot. Tower Hamlets NEU has been conducting a ballot for action against worsening of terms and conditions for workers in local schools. The Labour run council plans to scrap and rewrite contracts for admin and support staff in schools who are mainly in UNISON and the GMB unions. Among other things, the new conditions will involve sharp cuts to redundancy pay for teachers.
The Council has already written to its core staff informing them that they will be dismissed and renaged on new contracts if they do not accept the revised terms and conditions - Unison are balloting their members against this move.
The NEU has been asking for talks with the Labour Mayor ever since they ran a successful indicative ballot for action in December. The ballot came out a record 97% in favour of action on a 54% turnout. They got no reply from the Mayor but on Monday the union found out that Council Officers had applied to the High Court for an injunction to stop the strike ballot. The High Court hearing is on Friday, three days before the ballot closes.
The Council is claiming that there is no dispute because they are not the teachers' employers. But, no doubt encouraged by the anti-union rhetoric coming from the government, their submission to the court includes claims that a strike by school staff will cause financial hardship for parents and lead to an increase in anti-social behaviour as local youth will have nothing to do.
As NEU Branch Secretary Alex Kenny says:
'this clearly has nothing to do with the legality of our ballot but is a dog-whistle to a judge who might be sympathetic to the idea of banning public sector strikes.'
The union is pushing ahead with the ballot and campaigning for the biggest possible turnout. They are making it clear that whatever the outcome of the hearing they will ensure that members' right to strike is upheld and that action goes ahead if the draconian changes to terms and conditions are not withdrawn.
The union branch is lobbying local MPs and Labour Party branches for support and it has launched a petition for supporters to sign and circulate.
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