School workers strike in Hastings (Photo: Simon Hester)

NEU Union members at five schools in the University of Brighton Academy Trust (Ubat) were set to strike on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week.

Workers are demanding that Ubat keeps less money for central services and passes more on to schools to save jobs and reduce workloads.

This is the first academy wide dispute in the country.

It shines a spotlight on the lack of financial transparency and democratic accountability inherent in the academy system.

The dispute started in April when Hastings Academy announced job cuts. In response an emergency NEU meeting called for strikes.

That same week, it was revealed that Ubat takes more than double the proportion of funding for central services than most academy chains.

Ubat then announced further cuts at other schools including the loss of teachers, teaching assistants and site staff, and closure of the Trust’s Alternative Learning Provision unit.

The NEU swiftly organised meetings in all the affected schools. The union coordinated a formal strike ballot across five trust schools.

These are The Hastings Academy, The St Leonards Academy, The Baird Primary Academy, Burgess Hill Academy and Robsack Wood Primary Academy.

On a 74 percent turnout, members voted 93 percent Yes for strikes.

Two further schools are balloting to join action in September if the issue is not resolved.

In the course of this dispute, NEU membership has increased by around 50 percent across the five schools. Our new membership is overwhelmingly support staff, who have joined the NEU because they want a union that fights.

Jenny Sutton, NEU Hastings district secretary

Strikes to stop school closures and for better pay 

School workers at three schools in Lambeth, south London, are set to strike next Thursday against the council’s plans to merge six schools and close two more amid falling school numbers.

At St John’s Angell Town primary school, workers voted 100 percent Yes to strike on a 91 percent turnout.

At Holy Trinity primary, workers voted 100 percent yes on a 100 percent turnout.

At St Saviour’s primary, there was a 71 percent yes vote and a 100 percent turnout.

One teacher in Lambeth argued the falling school numbers have “been driven by the excessive cost of living in London and the ‘social cleansing’ that is coming with it”.

Instead of closing, schools could shift to smaller class sizes.

It’s a move that would benefit children’s education. The closures aren’t necessary, but are a political choice.

The council should not close a single school and not a single job should be lost.

Teachers at Oulton Academy in Leeds were set to strike on Tuesday and Wednesday this week. Leeds NEU union said the action follows a meeting with Adrian Kneeshaw, CEO of Carlton Academy Trust, which runs the school.

The NEU said the CEO refused to incorporate national terms into new contracts for academy staff.

Workers at Benson Community School in Birmingham are striking over management practices.

NEU members said that management bullied staff. Workers were set to strike on Wednesday of this week.

School workers at St Anne’s School and Sixth Form College in Hessle, near Hull, were set to strike this week from Tuesday to Friday. They are striking over a new pay system that doesn’t cover extra duties and responsibilities.

The school provides provision for children with special educational needs and disabilities. NEU union members struck from Tuesday to Friday last week.

Security guards strike to secure better pay

Outsourced security guards working in Jobcentres across England have been battling against their employer G4S.

More than 300 members of the PCS union voted for strikes in June.

Joint picket lines of GMB and PCS union members increased the size of the picket lines, putting greater pressure on their employer.

Workers are fighting for better benefits, more sick and primarily a long overdue pay raise. Workers are now paid the minimum wage of £11.44 an hour.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has given G4S £211 million since December 2022.

Natasha, who has worked as a security guard in Stratford, east London, for 20 years and is a member of both GMB and PCS, spoke to Socialist Worker. “We have to stand all day and it can be exhausting so we want to be fully paid for the work we do,” she said.

These workers struck on election day, laying down the gauntlet rather a red carpet for the new government. Some 16 pickets across England forced several Jobcentres to close during seven days of strikes last week.

At a Jobcentre in Watford, striker Jon told Socialist Worker, “G4S blame DWP and DWP blame G4S. We will keep striking until they pay us a living wage.”

Stuart, another guard at the Watford site, said, “I’ve worked for G4S for 14 years—and without a decent wage for most of that time.”

Thanks to Jon Gamble for speaking to strikers at the picket line in Watford

Merseyside bus drivers could go to all out strike

Almost 500 Stagecoach bus drivers on Merseyside walked out on Friday last week until Monday of this week. They plan four more days of action from Friday this week.

The drivers want to end the pay disparity between them and Arriva Liverpool drivers who get £1.40 more an hour. This equates to £3,000 extra a year.

The drivers have threatened all-out action.

Stagecoach offered a 4.3 percent pay rise, but this wasn’t enough to match the drivers’ demands.

Meanwhile, Unite union leaders called off a strike of 140 drivers for Cambus, a subsidiary of Stagecoach, in Bedfordshire.

As a “gesture of goodwill”, Unite cancelled action to allow members to vote on a new deal.

The workers had planned to strike for five days from Tuesday this week and eight more days across July and the beginning of August.

Cambus drivers earn just £13.46 per hour while other companies in the area pay over £15.

A previous offer would have reduced sick pay, removed the pay offer backdated to 4 April and removed overtime rates.

Unite members should be ready to reject the deal if it doesn’t match what they want.

And Stagecoach bus drivers in Swindon have won a 17 percent, two-year pay deal.

The Unite members had voted to strike but resolved their dispute before taking action.

The deal increases pay by more than 11 percent in the first year and six percent in the second—a victory for workers in Swindon.

Don’t rely on Labour to save steel workers’ jobs

On the day of the general election, bosses closed Blast Furnace 5—operating since 1959—at Tata’s steel plant in Port Talbot, south Wales.

The new Labour government said last weekend that it was in talks to save jobs.

Some 2,800 jobs are under threat from this closure and if bosses shut the second blast furnace in September. New business secretary Jonathan Reynolds said there was “a better deal available” on the future of the plant, but said newer technologies would employ fewer people.

The Unite union called off an indefinite strike that should have started on Monday this week. That would have put far more pressure on Tata management.

The unions have put all their faith in Labour.

If the government doesn’t guarantee all the jobs then there have to be strikes and demands for nationalisation.

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