Union protest against council's role in Oaks Park High dispute

Protestors gathered outside the Redbridge Town Hall on Monday to protest

Demonstrators gathered outside Redbridge Town Hall to protest the council's role in the industrial dispute at Oaks Park High School. - Credit: Venda Premkumar

A demonstration took place outside Redbridge Town Hall in solidarity with strikers at Oaks Park High School. 

Redbridge National Education Union (NEU) members and supporters gathered outside the town hall between 6pm and 7pm on Monday evening (July 5).

The protest follows six days of strike action at Oaks Park High, Newbury Park, in a dispute over staff working offsite during Covid-19.

NEU district secretary Venda Premkumar said: “The lobby was really to ask the local authority to play a more balanced role in the dispute.” 

She said that following the protest, a meeting with the council has been arranged for mid-July. 

The union is demanding the reinstatement of a dismissed NEU rep, the establishment of a joint union-employer working party to examine allegations of a bullying culture at the school and the creation of a code of conduct regarding the local authority’s handling of industrial relations. 

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

The union alleges that six members of staff who used section 44 have been “victimised” by the school, which the school and council have strongly denied. 

Union officials have suggested that the subsequent strike action has already brought victories for some such staff, claiming that two newly qualified teachers were rehired after allegedly being passed over for jobs and that maternity pay had been won for a teaching assistant. 

The school and local authority strongly dispute this, insisting that the claimed successes of the action were the result of decisions made entirely independently and, in some instances, before the beginning of the strike. 

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They said in a statement last week: “The school and the local authority regret that the dispute remains unresolved and we do not share the view that the recent industrial action has brought about developments.”  

Ms Premkumar said that members have already voted for further strike action, with dates set for mid-September when school returns.