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Teachers are ‘misguided’ says council, as union threatens more strike action

PUBLISHED: 12:00 11 November 2014 | UPDATED: 12:00 11 November 2014

Teachers from Highgate Wood School on strike in Crouch End. Pictured centre, Julie Davies, branch secretary of Haringey NUT. Picture: Polly Hancock

Teachers from Highgate Wood School on strike in Crouch End. Pictured centre, Julie Davies, branch secretary of Haringey NUT. Picture: Polly Hancock

Archant

The council has hit out at a teaching union for its “disproportionate” and “misguided” strike action, which will see two secondaries close to students for two days this week.

National Union of Teachers (NUT) members at Fortismere and Highgate Wood are set to walk out for a further two days this week, demanding their schools agree to the service level agreement - which pays for the union to represent them in internal matters.

They are also striking because of the perceived victimisation of their union rep Julie Davies, who was suspended in July while disciplinary proceedings went ahead.

Last week, it meant around 2,000 children were out of class on Wednesday, with the same number thought to be not in school tomorrow (Wednesday) and Thursday.

Up until now, the council has kept relatively quiet over the row with Ms Davies because the disciplinary proceedings are “an internal matter” - although has always emphasised it does support the work of unions.

It has been restricted by the fact disciplinary proceedings against the popular rep are still on-going.

But teachers can be left in no doubt of its stance on the walk outs after it released a withering statement on the walk outs.

“This strike action is not only disproportionate, it is also pre-emptive and misguided – relating to an ongoing local authority matter that is in no way an issue for individual schools,” the spokesman said. “We want all teachers in Haringey to enjoy appropriate union representation, and we are working closely with schools to reach a service level agreement that will allow this to continue.

“The council has a proud history of championing trade unions, and we fully support the right of union members to choose their own representatives. However, the fact is that all council employees are bound by our code of conduct. It is our responsibility to fully investigate any alleged breaches of this code, and it’s important that this process is allowed to run its course.

“We’re hugely disappointed that some union members have voted in favour of unwarranted industrial action, which will undoubtedly have a negative impact on the excellent education of a number of Haringey’s school children.”

But Niall O’Connor, deputy secretary of Haringey NUT, said to suggest his members were misguided or acting disproportionately was an “insult”.

“Are they trying to suggest teachers in Haringey are foolish?” he asked. “We have got the strongest ballot we’ve ever had.”

Mr O’Connor dismissed Haringey’s argument that this was not an argument with local schools, pointing out the “victimisation” of Ms Davies was related to a letter sent out by headteachers demanding her resignation in July - signed by Haringey secondary heads chairman Patrick Cozier, of Highgate Wood, and his deputy, Helen Anthony, of Fortismere.

“We accept the power to suspend her is not with the headteachers,” said Mr O’Connor. “So if the schools were to retract that letter and commit to facilities time [the service level agreement], we would not have a dispute with the schools.”

The NUT is now balloting its members at Hornsey School for Girls, in Inderwick Road, and Parkview, in Tottenham.

But all this can be avoided, Mr O’Connor stressed, if the schools would distance themselves from the letter, and sign the facilities time agreement.

Mr O’Connor added: “We are teachers. We do not want to disrupt children’s education. But if they do not talk to us, we have no choice.”

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