Redbridge school's staff to strike over Covid working dispute

Oaks Park High School, Newbury Park,

Staff at Oaks Park High School are set to go on strike. - Credit: Google

Teachers and support staff at a school in Newbury Park will take strike action in defence of colleagues who claim they have been “victimised”.  

National Education Union (NEU) regional officer Glenn Kelly alleged four workers at Oaks Park High School were told that “they will not have jobs in September” after asking not to work onsite during the second Covid wave. 

He said one has already lost their job, with the others to go in July.

Redbridge Council has said it found no evidence to support the union's allegations of victimisation.

A spokesperson said: "Instead the evidence indicated that the school had acted appropriately in their use of their staff policy framework which applies to all members of staff equally."

Oaks Park staff will show their support for the quartet by striking and planning legal action against the school and Redbridge Council, according to Mr Kelly. 

The strike will begin on June 15 and will be followed by two days of strike action in the week commencing June 21 and three days in the week after. 

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The council spokesperson added: "Although the decision to strike was supported by just less than half of the NEU’s members at the school, we regret the impact this may still have on students."

The NEU claims that the staff are “victims” as they had the "right" to refuse to be put in “an unsafe workplace" in January, at the height of the second wave of the pandemic, through section 44 of the Employment Rights Act 1996.  

Mr Kelly then alleges that Oaks Park threatened that they would be in a breach of contract and could face disciplinary action or a pay cut should they not work onsite.

Redbridge NEU members joined the quartet in solidarity, and later in January Mr Kelly claimed the local authority agreed that the staff could work from home.  

He believes the school is “seeking to wreak revenge" on the four workers by "ending their contracts".

"We hope once again the local authority will intervene to try and resolve this dispute and strike action can be avoided.” 

Redbridge Council said that it had reviewed the school’s appointment process for staff seeking to secure permanent roles for 2021-22 from fixed term positions.

The spokesperson said: "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.

"We concluded reasonably that there was no evidence that the use of Section 44 letters had influenced the school’s decision-making in their interview procedures.” 

Oaks Park was approached for comment but did not respond.