Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/698/13337
Langdon school strike
Manny Thain, East London Socialist Party
Bullying has always been a problem in schools. As the commercialisation of education accelerates, however, it is often the teachers on the receiving end - from senior management.
In Langdon school, Newham, east London, teachers who have opposed the massively increased workloads and far-reaching changes to the curriculum have been targeted by the head teacher.
The victimisation has provoked a series of strikes, escalating from one-day stoppages to the current three-day strikes each week. The strength of feeling is such that, of the 78 teachers taking action, over 40 attend the picket lines.
Following a meeting organised by the local NUT, attended by 80 parents, the branch secretary was threatened with the loss of facility time for organising an event inconsistent with union activity!
On top of the stories of their own mistreatment, teachers recount with disgust how students supporting their action were humiliated, made to stand on stage to apologise in front of the school assembly.
What gives this dispute a further insidious twist is that supply teachers and agency staff are being used to break the strike. This is supposed to be unlawful, but a loophole is being exploited. Newham council - a New Labour one-party borough under arch-Blairite mayor, Sir Robin Wales - is issuing work 'contracts' to the agency staff. Although these are hardly worth the paper they are printed on, they are enough to get round the legal restrictions.
This so-called 'Labour' council has an atrocious record, pursuing Con-Dem cuts and years of attacks on jobs, working conditions and union organisation. Now it is actively strike-breaking. If the intimidation and victimisation, along with the strike-breaking methods, are successful they could be used as a template around the country.
As we go to press, negotiations are ongoing. But if there is no resolution by the end of term, resources to spread the strike to other schools in the borough will need to be put in place. Further initiatives will be needed to strengthen the support of parents and students, and to mobilise the wider community - and the council should be besieged by protest.
Messages of support should be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Postscript. NUT members at Langdon school have voted by 59 to 0 (with four abstentions) to suspend their strike action after winning concessions. They secured guarantees, including a framework for reining in bullying management and for improving workloads. The ballot for strike action remains live if further action is needed.
In The Socialist 14 December 2011:
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