Staff at a secondary school in Stratford are set to strike on Thursday after ‘bullying’ management began docking their wages for failing to withdraw from industrial action that was yet to start.
Teachers, at Stratford School Academy, in Forest Gate, were preparing to take part in industrial action short of a strike, organised nationally by the NUT and NASUWT, that would limit them to teaching and planning while local union representatives held discussions with the academy’s management.
However, in an unexpected move headteacher Andrew Seager told staff in a letter dated Friday, October 12, that teachers who failed to opt out of the action in writing by 5pm the following Monday would have 15 per cent of their pay docked from their wages with immediate effect until the action was suspended despite it not having begun.
Seager said the board of governors considered staff that took part in the action – that would see teachers refusing classroom observations, appraisals or sickness cover – to be ‘in breach of contract’ and ‘would make an appropriate deduction in pay’.
Steve Charles, the academy’s NUT representative, said the punitive measure is an illegal attempt to bully and intimidate staff and that legal action would follow.
In a letter to staff, dated Wednesday, October 18, he said the unions feel that the academy’s actions ‘have no legal basis, particularly as the threat to deduct pay was made before any member of staff had taken any part in … the action’.
As a consequence of the escalation in tensions staff are now set to strike on Thursday with a further five days planned for the first two weeks in November following half term if the matter cannot be resolved.
Charles told union members ‘we need to give a clear message to the headteacher and the board of governors that we are not prepared to accept the bullying and intimidation that we have seen this week. Taking part in action is the only way that we can do so’.
Seager said attempts to form a local agreement with union representatives to restrict the action had failed, but Bob Stapley, the NUT’s London regional secretary, responded saying any restrictions were unjustified.
Talks between regional union officers and the school to resolve their differences are planned although no date has been set at the time of writing.
Teachers’ unions the NUT and NASUWT originally balloted for action to protest over changes to pay, pensions, workload, conditions and job losses after the Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove failed to agree to their demands.
The unions said the action was designed not to impinge on pupils or parents while resisting government policies they say prevent teachers from doing their jobs.
Teachers say they have been overburdened by constant monitoring, appraisals, performance management and bureaucracy on top of their busy schedules.