Staff at Oaks Park High School – a large community school in Redbridge, east London — who have been striking over the victimisation of a trade union rep, and against a wider culture of bullying, lobbied Redbridge Town Hall in Ilford on 5 July.
The strike action has already secured jobs and maternity pay for several bullied workers. Strikers are preparing for a final push next term to get justice for their unfairly sacked rep Keiran Mahon. At the rally workers asked: Why isn’t the Labour council intervening to end this bullying at a school which it runs? Indeed, what is the point of Labour if it acts like the Tories? The lively rally was attended by Socialist Party members and other supporters. Legal restrictions mean the next round of strikes will be in September.
by Ferdy Lyons, East London Socialist Party
30TH JUNE 2021
Tuesday 29 June saw the start of another three days of strike action by staff at Oaks Park High School – a large community school in Redbridge, east London, – over the victimisation of a trade union rep, and against a wider culture of bullying.
This action has already secured jobs and maternity pay for several bullied workers. Strikers are preparing for a final push next term to get justice for their unfairly sacked rep Keiran Mahon.
The picket was well attended and in high spirits, with strikers chanting: “Stop bullying staff” and “What’s disgusting, union busting!” and singing ‘Solidarity forever’ and ‘We shall not be moved’ accompanied by one of the reps’ trumpet.
The strike is visibly growing in confidence and cohesion. It’s been helped by pickets sharing harrowing stories of how the leadership of the school has bullied them. They are continuing to bully and intimidate staff to break the strike and deter more members from going out. Pickets told me that the school leadership is perpetuating lies about those who are out on strike and what the details of the strike are.
For the first time the picket even saw the presence of the police who reportedly were called in by the school management, falsely claiming previous picket lines ‘hurled verbal abuse and objects’. However, the officers were pleasantly surprised by the offer of cake and coffee from the picketers instead, much to the chagrin of the school leadership at the gates!
Bullying and unendurable workloads are problems in schools up and down the country and the National Education Union needs to unite the fightback by coordinating a national campaign.
On Monday 5 July, 5pm, there is a rally planned outside Redbridge town hall in solidarity with the Oaks Park strike. Why isn’t the council intervening to end this bullying at a school which it runs?
Legal restrictions mean the next round of strikes will be in September.
Oaks Park school strike stands strong against bully bosses
24TH JUNE 2021
by James Ivens, East London Socialist Party
Bully bosses looked agitated as Oaks Park High School pickets belted out ‘Solidarity Forever’ to the peals of a union rep’s trumpet on 22 June.
That Tuesday was the second strike day at the council-run secondary in Redbridge, east London. The National Education Union (NEU) is defending a sacked rep and three other staff victimised for exercising ‘Section 44’ health-and-safety rights.
Assistant heads policed the gates like bouncers. Students filed past a loud and spirited picket line demanding: “Stop the bullying!” The culture under the new head has led to the departure of many longer-standing staff and fear in the workplace.
The borough’s Labour council has opposed the union, siding with the bullying senior leadership team. As we go to press, strikers plan to march on Redbridge Town Hall on 23 June. If Labour councillors refuse to stand up for workers, trade unionists should consider standing independent candidates against them.
The strike has caused significant disruption, with classes packed together in the sports hall. This flies in the face of Covid safety as case numbers rise – and underlines management’s blasé attitude to student and staff welfare. Bosses even brought back older students with the promise of a free lunch to supervise ‘sports day’, as cover for the striking staff!
Despite the culture of fear and strike-breaking efforts, numbers on the picket line remain strong. But naturally, the bullying is not limited to the staff.
One picket told the strike rally that a senior manager had recently remarked on a student’s skirt length: “Don’t you have any dignity?” Standing up for herself, the student asked “does it make you uncomfortable, sir?” He reportedly replied: “Extremely!”
School workers were outraged at this sexist attack. They also noted that white students with skirts of the same length were not subjected to similar comments.
Louise Cuffaro, newly elected to the NEU’s national executive committee, joined fellow Socialist Party members on the picket line. “The very solidarity you’re feeling here is the solidarity you should be feeling every single day in the staff room!”
But “you have to fight to get the time to get the break in the staff room!” The fights against bullying and intolerable workload are fights the NEU must take up nationally.
The next planned strike days are Tuesday 29 June to Thursday 1 July.
Redbridge school walkout over victimised union rep
22ND JUNE 2021
Update 22nd June 2021: National Education Union national executive member Louise Cuffaro supporting the strike at Oaks Park High School this morning, alongside fellow Socialist Party members. School workers have had enough of bullying and victimisation. Victory to Redbridge NEU and the Oaks Park strike!
21ST JUNE 2021
Teachers and support staff working at Oaks Park High School in Redbridge have walked out in defence of their union rep who has been sacked and three other workers (including a pregnant woman) who have been told they will not have jobs in September.
According to their union, the National Education Union (NEU) they have been victimised because they refused to be put in an unsafe workplace at the height of the second wave of the pandemic.
In January, all four, including the union rep, exercised their legal right under section 44 of the health and safety act to refuse to work in an unsafe workplace.
The employer threatened these workers that they were in breach of contract and could face disciplinary action or a cut in their pay if they would not work onsite rather than from home as most school workers across the country were at the time.
Glenn Kelly, National Education Union (NEU) regional officer, said: “The union believes that the school is seeking to wreak revenge on the union rep and other members because they were forced to back down over COVID working earlier in the year”.
The next strike dates are 22-23 June, 29-30 June and 1 July.