The SSTA has been advised that there will be industrial action by education support staff unions next week in many local authorities. It is unlawful for any member of the SSTA to take industrial action where the SSTA has not given specific notice to the employer advising that action will be taken.
Where members of another STUC-affiliated trade union are involved in industrial action, SSTA members should:
- report for work as normal
- set appropriate work for classes timetabled for the day
- not accept any variation to their contracted duties and/or undertake duties or other responsibilities of those involved in the strike
- regard time gained on the day as additional planning, preparation and correction time, NOT as additional ‘Collegiate’ time
Should the decision be taken to close the school, staff not involved in strike action should report to work or remain at home if directed by the headteacher. If the school closes SSTA members should not suffer any salary deduction. Members who have unexpected caring responsibilities because of the planned industrial action should be encouraged to work from home.
Where a union taking strike action establishes a picket line, refusal to cross it would render a teacher who is not a member of a union taking strike action liable to disciplinary action, including the deduction of salary, as it would be considered as participating in unlawful industrial action.
The single exception to this is where there are genuine grounds to believe that crossing the picket line would put the person concerned at risk of injury. In these circumstances, SSTA members should contact the headteacher, an appropriate senior person in the school or an appropriate person in the employing authority, if the headteacher is not available.
They should also contact SSTA Head Office to advise what has taken place and to seek further advice or support. Members are asked to stop and listen politely to any case made then cross the picket line having assured those picketing that they will not undertake work those on strike would normally have carried out.
Please note: SSTA is NOT taking industrial action and any change to the working practices may be seen as an attempt to undermine the lawful industrial action of our colleagues in other trade unions.
"Time and Place" on Days of Industrial Action by Other Unions
There have been suggestions from certain authorities that they are entitled to suspend the terms of the Handbook of Conditions in relation to "Time and Place" (T&P) on a day when pupils are not in school because of industrial action by non-teaching unions. The Association rejects this view and advises members as follows.
The right to T&P is contained in paragraph 3.7 of Part 2 of the Handbook. It is not subject to suspension at the whim of the employer.
Any teacher who might have been able to make use of the T&P arrangement on a normal teaching day may continue to do so (but subject to the caveats below). It is not the case that the teacher can maintain that the whole day is subject to T&P in such circumstances. It is only the time that the teacher would normally have T&P available which can be used. This point is most important: the Association makes use of the "normal day" argument in other cases to the benefit of members (and hence must accept the concept in this instance).
However, there is an important caveat. We are party to an agreement that we work in a collegiate environment. The pattern of a working day when pupils do not attend is well established. There are additional Departmental Meetings, whole staff meetings, work in departments, development work etc. If a teacher were to use the T&P arrangement during the time which might otherwise be used for a whole staff meeting, the point of having the meeting is lost: some teachers might not attend. In such circumstances, a negotiated agreement as to the use of the day is quite permissible. It might be noted that on such days staff very generally leave early by agreement (which might be regarded as a transferred T&P arrangement).
It is essential that any such arrangement is agreed and not imposed. The agreement might be at LNCT, JCC or at appropriate meeting at school level (SNC etc).
If there is any attempt to impose a "suspension" of T&P, members should immediately submit a grievance (which might be collective). The General Secretary would advise on this. In such cases, we maintain the status quo arrangement viz we revert to the conditions applying prior to the dispute and hence members can use T&P subject to the above advice. It is all the more important therefore for any authority or headteacher to negotiate on the matter well before the day in question. The Association notes that anything else (including an attempt to impose a suspension) would be a significant violation of the collegiality concept which would rightly cause members to withdraw co-operation in a significant number of areas.
Further advice can be obtained from the SSTA Head Office