Two separate industrial disputes affecting schools in east London will lead to three days of strike action in February, Unite the union announced today (Tuesday 26 January).

Ten teaching support staff at the Colvestone primary school and the Thomas Fairchild community school, part of the Hackney-based Soaring Skies Federation which educates more than 600 children, will strike over potentially more than 18 jobs being at risk out of about 30-strong teaching support staff.

The 32 drivers and passenger assistants, who take disabled children to and from school in Hackney, voted unanimously to strike over the failure of their employer, the borough council, to make a one-off £500 Covid-19 payment and other health & safety issues.

Both strikes will begin at 00:01 on Wednesday 10 February continuing each day up to Friday 12 February, ending at 24:00.

Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: “These two long-running disputes are coming home to roost for the respective employers in Hackney when ‘education’ is at the top of the political agenda.

“The failures of both sets of employers to engage in constructive talks with Unite has left our members with no option, but to reluctantly take strike action over three days in February – hopefully, the dovetailing of these two disputes will concentrate minds.

“Our door for meaningful talks remains open 24/7, however, we cannot stand by while jobs, pay and employment conditions are cut - and our members should not pay the price for the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The health crisis has correctly focussed on the importance of education from the prime minister downwards. The teaching assistants at Soaring Skies Federation are still working during the current school closures – in many cases, attending school sites to supervise children of key workers, while remote learning takes place.

“The same dedication is also true of the drivers and passenger assistants working for Hackney council. They are continuing to take the children of key workers and vulnerable children to school during the pandemic. We are now asking for a one-off lump sum payment in recognition of this work.”

Unite is liaising with the other unions concerned about the plans in the Soaring Skies Federation dispute – GMB, National Education Union (NEU) and Unison.


Notes to editors:

The drivers in Hackney deliver children to all schools in the borough, but Unite can’t confirm if this includes the two Soaring Skies Federation primary schools, also subject to industrial action.   

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Unite press office is on:  020 3371 2065.

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Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.