Strike over Covid working dispute begins at Oaks Park High School

Strike outside Newbury Park high school

Staff began strike action at Oaks Park High School today (June 15). - Credit: Cash Boyle

Strike action has begun at Oaks Park High School in a dispute over alleged staff victimisation.

Teachers and support staff gathered outside the Newbury Park school this morning - June 15 - for the first of six planned days of industrial action.

As first reported by the Recorder on June 2, the dispute centres around the alleged treatment of staff who asked to work offsite during the second wave of Covid-19.

In January, workers at the school made requests under section 44 of the Employment Rights Act, a law which protects employees from punishment should they refuse to work in unsafe circumstances.

Strike outside Newbury Park high school

Redbridge NEU has stated that it is willing to extend strike action if necessary. - Credit: Cash Boyle

National Education Union (NEU) regional officer, Glenn Kelly, alleged that four of those workers were told that “they will not have jobs in September”.

He believes the school is “seeking to wreak revenge" after claiming Redbridge Council granted the quartet's request to work from home after they were joined by Redbridge NEU members.

Mr Kelly said one of the four has already lost their job, with the others to go in July.

The NEU claims the staff are "victims" but, when asked for comment ahead of today's first strike, a council spokesperson confirmed its stance that there is "no evidence" of alleged victimisation.

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The authority has insisted there was no proof to link staff making section 44 requests and permanent appointments made by the school for 2021/22.

Earlier this month, a spokesperson said evidence indicated the school had acted "appropriately in their use of their staff policy".

They continued: "While some staff who had previously submitted section 44 letters had been unsuccessful at interviews, we also found that some staff who had previously submitted a section 44 letter in January were successful at interview and had been offered and accepted new permanent posts at the school."

Strike outside Newbury Park high school

Industrial action taking place outside Oaks Park High School in Newbury Park today (June 15). - Credit: Cash Boyle

The authority said that while the decision to strike was supported by just less than half of the NEU’s members at the school, it regrets its impact on students.

Redbridge NEU joint secretary Venda Premkumar said the union is "prepared to keep going until September if necessary".

Two days of strike action are planned for next Tuesday and Wednesday (June 22/23), with three days scheduled for the following Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (until July 1).

The council spokesperson said that the school is "working with ACAS to try and secure a negotiated solution".

Oaks Park was approached for comment but did not respond.