By Jean Lane, Tower Hamlets Unison
Support Staff at Central Foundation Girls’ School in East London won a dispute over redundancies just before the Easter holidays began.
Last September the new Headteacher announced an intention to restructure the admin department and that this would be likely to lead to redundancies. Eleven admin workers were to lose their job and be made to reapply for another.
Unison members asked the head for redundancy-avoiding measures such as direct assimilation. We were told no even before the new job descriptions had been written, on the basis of an excuse about job emphasis descriptions. We pointed out that training might be a better solution than the sack!
We lobbied the governors and, under guidance from the head, three-quarters of the governors left the room rather than hear what we had to say. We passed a resolution in our union meeting unanimously that if any one worker was made redundant we would take strike action.
While we were balloting the head went ahead with the interviews for the new jobs despite the fact that the union had registered disagreement about how the restructure was being carried out. As a result of the interviews six members of staff were unsuccessful in getting one of the new jobs. The three Unison members that this affected were in the remarkable situation that their old jobs, under a new title, still existed and were vacant, yet they were still in the school without a job! Our ballot returned 94% in favour of strike action.
Throughout our dispute we had the solid support of the teachers and of the NUT in particular. The NUT voted unanimously not to cross our picket lines. The head could be in no doubt that if we went on strike the school would close.
The evening before the strike was to start, a compromise was reached which effectively meant that there was not one single redundancy and no loss of pay. It was only as a result of the unity between support staff and teachers that we achieved what we did.