Members of the National Education Union (NEU) and the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) have voted for strike action as a result of both unions’ ongoing campaigns for better pay for teachers. The strikes are likely to result in periodic school closures from February onwards.
The NEU is declaring seven days of strike action in February and March, though any individual school will only be affected by four of them. The first will be on Wednesday 1 February, affecting 23,400 schools in England and Wales. Teacher members in sixth form colleges in England, who have already been balloted and taken strike action in recent months, will also take action on these days in a separate but linked dispute. The strike on 1 February coincides with the TUC’s Right to Strike day of action and protests.
The EIS has declared two days of national strike action in all schools and sectors on 28 February and 1 March, followed by a rolling programme of strikes for 20 days between 13 March and 21 April. Over the rolling strike period, each local authority area will be impacted by three consecutive days of strike action, with one day of strike action in all schools bookended on either side by one-day strikes in primary and secondary schools.
The MU stands in solidarity with both unions in the action they are taking on behalf of their members.
How the strikes might affect MU members
The MU offers joint memberships with NEU and EIS for musicians who also do classroom teaching in schools and colleges. MU members who have joint memberships with these unions will already have been balloted if they are eligible to participate in industrial action. Those who do not have joint memberships with NEU and EIS will not be able to take part.
Where strikes result in school closures, members will be unable to work in schools on strike days. This will affect visiting music teachers (VMTs) differently depending on their contracts.
The MU’s position is that employed VMTs who are not striking but who will be unable to work because their workplace is closed – e.g. VMTs employed by a music hub whose teaching coincides with a strike day – should be paid as normal because they are not on strike. However, there are likely to be some complications around this, and members should get in touch if they require assistance.
VMTs engaged on zero-hour or worker contracts should speak to their employer. The MU’s position is that, where their workplace is closed because of strike action, these teachers should be paid as normal, but we expect that some teachers may be asked to offer an alternative day or may have that day’s work cancelled without pay. Members should contact the MU if they are unable to resolve any issues arising from this.
Self-employed VMTs will be affected in different ways depending on who their contractual relationship is with. If it is with pupils’ parents, it is likely that an alternative will need to be offered if lessons are missed where a workplace is closed because of strike action. If the contractual relationship is with the school, the MU’s position is that teachers should be paid as normal, but this will depend on the school’s approach to handling strike action and any agreement that is in place. Members should contact the MU if they are unable to resolve any issues arising from this.
Some schools may stay open on strike days, in which case MU members may still be required to work. In this instance, the MU’s position is that duties should not be changed to cover other teachers’ roles, although contractual obligations will vary. Members who are uncertain should get in touch.
See the MU’s advice on grants and financial support in the event of financial hardship caused by the loss of work.
How can members support the strikes?
MU members who are joint members with NEU or EIS, and who have been balloted about the strikes, will be taking industrial action and are entitled to picket outside on strike days if part of the official NEU/EIS picket line. They should also check any guidance issued by NEU and/or EIS.
The MU advises those who are not joint members with NEU or EIS not to attend picket lines. We cannot guarantee that this will not be interpreted as unofficial action, which could then lead to detrimental treatment or dismissal. This is a complex area, and members who require further guidance should get in touch.
On 1 February, the TUC’s Right to Strike day will take place. The MU will take part on this day, and we invite members to join us. We will provide further information as soon as the TUC announces plans for the day.