Teacher strikes

Largest trust would shun ‘inflammatory’ new strike laws

Minimum service levels 'likely to be self-defeating in practice', warns United Learning

Minimum service levels 'likely to be self-defeating in practice', warns United Learning

United Learning academy school

England’s largest academy trust has vowed not to issue work orders to striking staff if “inflammatory” and “self-defeating” new strike laws are implemented in schools.

United Learning, which runs 89 schools and employs over 7,000 staff in the state sector, said leaders recognised enacting minimum service levels would “damage industrial relations and harm their image as an employer throughout the sector”.

This would make it “impossible to retain the goodwill and discretionary effort of staff; harder to retain staff; and the reputational impact would make it harder to attract new staff”.

“In the end, this would have a more negative impact on children and parents than the strikes themselves.”

The trust has published its stinging response to the government’s consultation, which proposed laws allowing schools to keep staff in work to educate certain groups of pupils during industrial action.

‘Self-defeating’

It said the proposal was “wrong in principle and in its details and likely to be self- defeating in practice”.

Employers would not be required to issue work orders, and United Learning said it was “inconceivable that any employer will in fact choose to do so”.

The trust pointed to a memorandum the government issued when the legislation was being enacted for the transport sector.

In it, government admitted the “large number of employers in the education sector would also likely make minimum service arrangements difficult and very burdensome to implement”.

United Learning warned the “impression is of a concept designed for rail strikes being clumsily retrofitted to schools”.

Unions have already savaged the plans for MSLs, with ASCL warning they would put leaders in the “impossible position” of being expected to enact legislation that will cause “irreparable harm”.

The Confederation of School Trusts has also warned its members fear MSLs will “undermine” rights to freedom of association, “particularly for special school and primary staff” and have a “severe and deleterious impact on good industrial relations”.

It follows more than 10 days of strike action in schools last year in a dispute over teacher pay and working conditions.

‘Can’t be coherently applied to schools’

United Learning said that, “on the whole”, employers “deplore strikes and think they are harmful to children and to a key public service as well as inconvenient to parents”.

But the trust said its own “strong opposition to anything that disrupts children’s education is, however, an inadequate basis for denying others the right to withdraw their labour”.

They added that the concept of a minimum service level was “not one that can coherently be applied to schools”.

“There is no ‘level’ of service, less than normal provision, which must unarguably be maintained at all times, as there is for some other public services.”

The trust added that categorisations used during Covid were not “appropriate” for industrial action.

Using vulnerable pupils as a definition for a minimum service also “risks beginning to imply that the education of some pupils is more essential than others. This is a harmful view”.

More from this theme

Teacher strikes

NASUWT plans consultative ballot over pay and workload

Teachers' union says it will 'take forward its campaigning, up to and including industrial action, to secure a better...

Freddie Whittaker
Teacher strikes

Minimum service levels will put heads in ‘impossible position’ – ASCL

School leaders' union warns government plans will cause 'irreparable harm'

Freddie Whittaker
Teacher strikes

NEU to hold indicative ballot over potential strike action

Country's largest teacher union to run indicative ballot in March asking members to back strike action

Schools Week Reporter
Teacher strikes

Union launches new dispute as Keegan ‘frustrates’ pay review

NASUWT says education secretary's sluggish pay response puts progress 'in jeopardy'

Jack Dyson
Teacher strikes

Leaders vow to shun minimum service levels for schools

But DfE refuses to say whether schools will face action for failing to issue work notices to striking staff

Freddie Whittaker
Teacher strikes

Leaders slam ‘sham’ anti-strike law consultation

Schools given just 150 characters to comment on controversial minimum service level laws, and must pick a preferred option

Schools Week Reporter

Your thoughts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

One comment

  1. Rubina Darr

    In a democratic society it is a basic fundamental right to strike, if the listening is not there.
    What other powerful tool do humans have other than to withdraw labour?
    We are then at the mercy of employers exerting power, just like the Post Office scandal, where ordinary people were not believed!

    This does not tie in with the basic human values of respect for all.
    The doctors are still trying to make their voice heard.
    They are together.
    We must stop pitting people against each other.
    So what else do employees have left if no one is listening?

    The full facts and transparency are vital if the next generation are to have a strong moral compass.
    Look after those who need to be looked after.

    School leaders do this unconditionally day in and day out.