NEU: make defence of reps central!

Submitted by AWL on 4 May, 2021 - 7:19 Author: Pat Markey
John Roan picket line

Chaired by victimised National Education Union (NEU) rep Tracy McGuire, the Defend Victimised NEU Reps Zoom meeting on Thursday 29 April heard from victimised NEU reps and how the fightback is shaping up.

First to address the meeting was Louise Lewis, NEU rep at North Huddersfield Trust School, suspended last year after seeking to secure safer working during the pandemic. NEU members at the school voted for strike action to defend Louise and are striking for two days, with more to follow.

Kirstie Paton, a teacher at the John Roan School in Greenwich, London, for 20 years, NEU rep, and an NEU Executive member, spoke about the campaign to defend her from dismissal after she had spoken out about health and safety at the school, and specifically about the limitations of the use of lateral flow test as an alternative to staff and students who come into contact with Covid-19 infections being sent home to isolate. NEU members at John Roan School are striking to defend Kirstie. Kirstie stressed that the campaign was more than about defending her as a victimised rep, and urged the meeting to take up the fight against the wholesale academisation of all schools as the route that Gavin Williamson wants to go down.

Ian Forsyth spoke as a victimised NEU rep at Leaways Special School, in Clapton, London, which is run by an unscrupulous, profit-making company, the Kedleston Group. Since members struck in December over a host of issues, six NEU members and reps have been unfairly disciplined or outright dismissed.

Their picket line has been supported by Diane Abbott MP, who wrote: ‘‘I have taken a close interest in this dispute, appearing on picket lines, producing a video and speaking at a public meeting in support of the teachers. Leaways is a privately-owned special school for autistic children and others with special needs. It reportedly charges £50,000 per pupil, a cost which is largely met by the public sector. Unfortunately... it is little more than a converted warehouse and it is surprising that it passes any suitability test as premises for teaching some of our most vulnerable children… The NEU union is right to fight for recognition and against victimisation of its representative. It is a basic right to join or organise a union, and it seems inappropriate that any public money is provided to an employer that tries to ban or bust unions. Hackney Council should examine its relationship with Leaways as a matter of urgency…”

Victimised NEU reps are organising and strikes are taking place under really difficult circumstances. The fight to defend workplace reps is not yet front and centre stage for the NEU as it needs to be.

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