This NEU advice tells you how to give support to strike action by other unions and help make that action a success, in particular by ensuring that proper consideration is given to closing the school and that strikers' work is not covered by others, while avoiding the risk of breach of contract or disciplinary action yourself.
The legal position
Where the NEU has not balloted for action, it is unlawful for NEU members to join with colleagues in another union who are taking action following a ballot.
What members should do
Whenever colleague members of TUC affiliated trade unions are involved in industrial action NEU members should report for work as normal having advised the Headteacher in advance that they will not accept any variation to their contracted duties and/or undertake the timetabled or other responsibilities of those engaged in action. NEU workplace representatives should inform the Headteacher of this on behalf of members.
Closure of the school
Headteachers, having been notified of the number participating in the strike action by the union involved in their school will make a judgement about whether the school will remain fully open, partially open, (i.e. some year groups/class sent home) or will close. The NEU representative will need to confirm that the Headteacher has undertaken a risk assessment based on the potential impact on the school of the absence of the staff who will be involved in the action.
If the decision is made to close the school the Headteacher will decide whether it is closed only to pupils. Staff not involved in the strike action should report to work or can remain at home if directed by the Headteacher. NEU members should follow in the instruction of the Headteacher in this matter. However, the NEU does not believe it makes much sense for those not taking action to be instructed to attend when all pupils are remaining at home and the NEU would need to be satisfied that the work they would be directed to undertake in school in the absence of pupils would not constitute any element of work which would normally be undertaken by a member of staff on strike and thus undermine the action.
NEU members should not suffer any salary deductions if the school closes.
Where a school remains partially open and certain classes/year groups are sent home NEU members should not agree to timetable variations to accommodate classes or pupils who would normally have been taken by those taking action. The NEU would need to establish with the Headteacher that members who are working with their normal classes will be able to access all of the necessary services to ensure the health, safety and welfare of themselves and the pupils.
Official picket lines
Where a union in action establishes an official picket line, refusal to cross it would render a teacher liable to be disciplined, including the deduction of salary as it would be considered as participating in unballoted 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 members should contact the Headteacher or an appropriate senior person in the school of Local Authority if the head is not available. They should also contact staff in the relevant nation/region.
In all other circumstances members should cross the picket line assured those picketing that they will not undertake work those on strike would normally have carried out.