Industrial news in brief

Teachers at Bishop Challoner school in East London are voting in an indicative ballot for strikes against the victimisation of a National Union of Teachers rep, and again what workers describe as an authoritarian and bullying management regime inside the school.

An NUT campaign forced the school management to climb down in autumn 2012 when they wanted to impose a “mock Ofsted” inspection on staff. A strong union group was forged on the back of this. Weeks later, the union rep found himself on “capability”, a form of professional probation. That was triggered by two observations, both with a low-set Year 11 class last thing on a Friday afternoon that took place in June, months previous. It is no coincidence that a rep who has built a fighting union group in his school that has challenged the authority of the head finds himself in this situation.

Capability is designed to get rid of teachers; the stress of the process can make a downward spiral of lesson observations almost inevitable. And it is all too often successful union reps that find themselves caught up in it. This is victimisation in a school in which many members of staff feel oppressed, belittled, and bullied. Staff have little faith in the practices and judgements of the leadership team.

Teachers elsewhere in the country are fighting back against over-observation and bullying managements. Members of the teaching union NASUWT at Newtown primary school in St. Helens struck against the school management’s staff appraisal system.

Under the system, staff can be subject to an unlimited number of observations. The union also has concerns over confidentiality.

Halesowen College strike

Lecturers at Halesowen College struck on Thursday 14 February to demand the reinstatement of four colleagues.

The four maths lecturers were sacked because their students failed to reach particular attainment targets, but the University and College Union (UCU) accuses college bosses of disregarding their own disciplinary procedures and protocols, and says the four are being victimised for their trade union activity.

Supporters handed in a “Valentines Day card” petition to management, containing over 12,000 signatures.

More high street jobs threatened

2,500 workers’ jobs were put at risk as fashion retailer Republic became the latest high-street firm to collapse.

150 head office staff were immediately made redundant. Republic has 121 stores around the country.

Meanwhile, the South East Region TUC’s “Hear My Voice” campaign, to organise HMV workers to help defend jobs at the entertainment retailer, continues. It is campaigning against the closure of 66 stores, and demanding that in any cases where job losses are unavoidable, HMV’s administrators guarantee retraining and find alternative employment for sacked workers.