Anger after teachers’ union ‘abandoned’ strike in Luton

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Teachers in Luton have expressed anger after their union abandoned a planned strike and left their rep to be suspended.

The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) wrote to members employed by the Chiltern Learning Trust last term – encouraging them to participate in a strike for a 2% wage increase.

The strike at Challney High School for Girls – run by the Trust – began on November 23 and was scheduled to continue until November 30.

However after Chiltern Learning Trust threatened legal action, it is understood NASUWT pulled the strike.

Now, the union representative has been suspended and NASUWT has allegedly resisted calls for action by members to ensure the rep’s safe return to work.

One teacher said: “I am left feeling betrayed and lied to by the NASUWT. We went on strike ... because the NASUWT told us we had the democratic right to go on strike to claim the wage we were entitled to.

“Well if we are entitled to have it – why has the union abandoned us as soon as legal action is threatened?

“NASUWT told us our strike was legal but now they back off. No teacher would have gone on strike if we’d known action was illegal.”

Luton Herald & Post contacted NASUWT and asked about the strike’s legality, the reason for its cancellation and why support was not apparently offered to reinstate the union rep.

NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates declined to respond directly to these questions. She said: “The planned strike action was suspended at Challney High School for Girls because we are now entering into dialogue with the employer under the auspices of ACAS.”

In August 2017, the government approved plans to guarantee a 1% annual pay increase for all main scale teachers, with some teachers at the lower end of the main scale pay grades receiving a 2% pay increase

These pay increases were adopted fully by all Luton Borough Council schools, including schools within Chiltern Learning Trust

NASUWT claimed that Chiltern Learning Trust was not following the recommendations set out by the government – however in the Trust’s own words, this was “simply not true”.

A Chiltern Learning Trust spokesman said that since 2016 all teachers at Challney High School for Girls had received a minimum performance-related pay increase of 9% with some receiving 11% following the school’s successful exam results.

“In summary, all main scale teachers at Challney High School for Girls have been awarded an annual pay increase that goes way beyond the recommendations made by the government. We find it absolutely astonishing that the NASUWT do not feel this is an adequate pay rise.”

The teacher at the Trust added: “Is NASUWT running illegal strikes up and down the county and backing off as soon as an employer challenges them? I’d like an inquiry into this. What has the NASUWT done in the Chiltern Learning Trust?”