By Ken Muller
Earlier this week, it was announced that teachers at the STEM 6 Academy, a newly opened 16-18 free school in Islington, had voted to take strike action in support of their demand for union recognition in a ballot organised by their union, the NUT.
This morning (Wednesday, 22 January), the NUT gave STEM 6 governors of a one day strike next Thursday (30 January) to be followed by two days of action on the Wednesday and Thursday of the following week (5 and 6 February) and a further three strike the following week on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday 11, 12 and 13 February.
Later today, the teachers received a letter instructing them to attend individual, ‘one to one’ interviews tomorrow (Thursday 23) with the academy principal, the chair of governors – Boris Johnson’s chum Tony Sewell and the chief executive of the firm behind the free school.
Quite rightly – and courageously – the teachers met this afternoon and agreed to boycott the interviews and ask the NUT to write to the principal telling him that if he and the governors want to discuss their grievances they should do it through their union.
One of them observed that if there was any ever doubt about whether they should fight for union recognition or not today’s attempt to bully and intimidate them has ended it.
Once union recognition has been achieved, teachers at STEM 6 are demanding a major revision of the disgraceful contract which they only signed under duress before Xmas. This includes the right of management to lay teachers off without pay at its discretion – which effectively amounts to a zero hours contract. It also includes a maximum of 15 days paid sick leave per year, statutory maternity leave provision and no incremental pay progression, with any future pay increases being, once again, at management’s discretion.
This is a crucial fight, the first of its kind at a free school. The contract STEM 6 governors want to impose on its teachers is the future for all of us if Gove is allowed to get his way. STEM 6, like other here schools and academies, should be brought under local authority control and its staff should enjoy the same terms and conditions as their colleagues in maintained schools.
But meanwhile, STEM 6 teachers deserve our support – both because they are in the right, brave and courageous and because a victory for them will be a victory for the all of us.
Messages of support via: Ken Muller (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Anyone who can make it, come and join the picket line from 7.30 am next Thursday.