Dealing with Industrial Action

Ruth Rule-Mullen
Ruth Rule-Mullen

Published: January 20th, 2023

7 min read

Chaos is set to sweep across the public sector, as the Country's largest Teaching Union approves strike action that could trigger the biggest shutdown of schools due to strike for many years. The strike action is set to affect schools across England and Wales on numerous dates throughout February and March, with the first date set as soon as 1st February 2023.

The teaching strikes are the latest to be announced in a wave of industrial action which has seen stoppages across various public sectors in recent months and will be coupled with strikes in other sectors on the same date.

How did this happen?

By legislation, for industrial action to be considered lawful, Trade Unions are required to hold a strike action ballot whereby members vote in favour or against taking industrial action. In the education sector, ballots must have a turnout of at least 50% of members and the action must have support of at least 40% of all members, not just those who voted.

On the 16 January 2023, the NEU announced the required ballot threshold for strike action had been met and subsequently declared 7 days of strikes as follows:

  • Wednesday 1 February 2023
  • Tuesday 14 February 2023
  • Tuesday 28 February 2023
  • Wednesday 1 March 2023
  • Thursday 2 March 2023
  • Wednesday 15 March 2023
  • Thursday 16 March 2023

The NEU and its members are taking such action in the hope that it will send a strong message to the government over teachers' pay and lack of funding in the education sector, following failed discussions with numerous education secretaries. NASUWT also balloted for strike action but didn't meet the threshold for action.

Practical tips for dealing with strike action:

Some schools may see little to no impact from the planned strike action but it for others it will mean that schools have no option but to consider changes to the way they operate. The Department for Education have issued updated guidance to assist schools in taking all reasonable steps to remain open for as many pupils as possible.

Following two years of disrupted education due to the pandemic, it is an emotive topic for parents, teachers and school leaders. School leaders will undoubtedly, more than ever, feel the pressure to ensure that they do everything possible to ensure schools remain open amid the strike action in light of the situation.

To minimise the disruption of the strike action, schools are encouraged to come up with a plan as early on as possible, you should:

What strike dates will you be affected by? Whilst some of the strike dates are national, others are regional, and you should understand what dates you are affected by and those you are not;

Try and determine how many staff are to be absent on the set strike dates.

Consider how you will cover those absences. Can lessons be taught by other members of staff or classes be brought together? There is potential for schools to bring in temporary supply teachers to cover striking employees. If large numbers of staff are set to be on strike you may need to consider restricting attendance for some pupils. In this case consideration should be given to which pupils are to be prioritised;

Who are your NEU representatives and agree lines of communication to try and deal with matters effectively

  • What do you need to know by the start of strike action that you don't know?
  • Do you know the rules around what information you will be provided?
  • Do you know what rules are around non-NEU members striking?
  • Do you know how to deal with picketing?
  • Do you know what to do about deductions from pay for striking staff?
  • Do you know what the position is around hiring agency staff?

Whilst there is limited prospect of an immediate truce putting an end to the pending strike action, ensuring you have procedures in place to deal with the strike action will not only help to minimise the impact on schools but will also show the action is not having the desired effect.

If you need advice in planning for strike action, please do not hesitate to contact Ruth Rule-Mullen

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