Industrial Action / Strikes
Members have a responsibility for their own health and safety.
If you have reason to suppose that crossing a picket line could cause problems – emotionally or physically – and/or you would find yourself working alone in a building, you should report for work by writing to your line manager in advance, stating that you are available for work but that, for health and safety reasons, you will be working from home, unless alternative premises are available, and that you would be happy to undertake appropriate duties in a safe environment.
To open the section below as a word document click on the button above, which also includes a letter for you to use to inform your headteacher/manager/employer of your position in relation to any strike which may occur.
The Cardinal Rule
As an independent trade union and professional organisation, Voice both looks after the interests of its members and works to promote the best possible practice in education and childcare.
We believe that all those involved in education and childcare should make the best interests of children and students their first and overwhelming priority.
Voice is indefatigable in pursuing the resolution of problems through negotiation. We campaign vigorously on national issues and actively support members in difficulties of a local or individual nature. We do not undertake industrial action because we recognise its negativity and the inevitable damage caused to the interests of those for whom we are responsible.
This gives us the principle on which we base our Cardinal Rule, found as Rule 4 of our Constitution, namely:
"Members shall not go on strike in any circumstances".
It applies to all Voice members. Strike action includes any kind of industrial action.
NB: Voice is not affiliated to the S/TUC. Its independent status means that potential members can join straight away. A certificate of clearance is not required from an applicant’s previous union. Although Voice members do not take industrial action, previous involvement in industrial action while a member of another union is not a barrier to membership of Voice.
If you would normally work on the day(s) of a strike, tell your manager in writing in advance that you are available for work**. Make sure that you know in advance of any special arrangements that may be made (eg some buildings may be closed). If the employer closes the whole workplace, you still need to make it clear in writing that you are available for work and not on strike.
If you make your employer aware that you are available for work and intend to work in line with the terms and conditions of your contract, you should be paid. Failure to pay you in such circumstances would be a breach of contract and you should contact Voice for advice.
Members should undertake their own work as reasonably instructed by their head teacher or line manager. ‘Own work’ includes contractual duties and any non-contractual duties members would normally undertake. During industrial action by others, members can be directed to undertake some extra duties, but that direction must be reasonable. This includes support staff, who should continue with their own duties and not cover classes for a teacher who is on strike.
"Where teachers are employed under the School Teachers Pay and Conditions document, they cannot be compelled to provide cover for other teachers, unless the circumstances are unforeseen. Provisions within teachers’ terms and conditions, such as ‘rarely cover’, do not, however, prevent head teachers from asking other teachers to cover the classes of those taking industrial action."
You need to make a determined attempt to get to work. Where possible go into work with a colleague. Walk past any lawful picket line. It is better not to engage in any discussion or argument at this point. There will be better opportunities for discussion if you want them. In the unlikely event of an intimidatory picket, that may be unlawful, back off and telephone your employer for instructions. Your employer should assist you; and will give further help and advice on request.
Colleagues on strike are permitted to peacefully picket their workplace but not another workplace. The key word is "peaceful". It is acceptable for pickets to try and convince colleagues not to cross the picket line and they are entitled to expect non-striking colleagues to stop and listen to their views. But pickets are not entitled to obstruct another employee's entry to their place of work and the picketing must not involve any breach of the civil law such as trespass or nuisance.
If a Voice member has made a reasonable effort to cross a picket line but was unable to do so we would expect the employer to decide not to treat their absence as industrial action.
Health and Safety law and school, college and nursery procedures and policies continue to apply. If you are concerned about your health and safety or that of the children at your workplace, contact Voice immediately for advice.
While we do not take industrial action, we respect the right of others to do so. Members should therefore not take up the duties laid down by their colleagues unless circumstances are so special that individual consciences dictate otherwise. Examples might include where the safety of children was jeopardised through industrial action taken by others, or where late action had prevented management arranging for replacement staff so necessitating the cancellation of a national examination.
Do not remain on the premises alone or in very small numbers if your colleagues withdraw if, on the grounds of health and safety, this would be unwise. Write to your line manager to say that you are available to undertake any tasks that are appropriate and possible, taking into account the exceptional circumstances, and that you would be happy to undertake appropriate duties in a safe environment.
** Letter to use to inform your headteacher/manager/employer of your position in relation to any strike which may occur
Industrial Action on [date]
I am writing on the advice of my union, Voice, to confirm that I will not be participating in the industrial action on [date]. Consequently I am available for work in line with the terms and conditions of my own contract and I understand that I can be directed to undertake some extra duties if that direction is a reasonable one in all the circumstances.
I need to add that I am not prepared to undertake the work of colleagues on strike because I respect their democratic right to take industrial action. Nor am I prepared to work in conditions that could place the health and safety of pupils, or my own health and safety, at risk.
I trust this letter will inform your planning for [date of action] and I welcome the opportunity to discuss arrangements that affect me if you consider that helpful.
Work to rule is a form of industrial action.
There is no clear legal definition of industrial action but it is described as concerted action taken against the employer (as opposed to action taken by an individual) in order to put pressure on the employer in an attempt to achieve some objective .
Employees will be taking part in industrial action if they:
- collectively withdraw their labour, ie take strike action
- refuse to undertake some of their duties to carry out reasonable instructions or otherwise not co-operate with the employer– this is a work to rule.
Strike action is a breach of contract, but it is not always clear whether industrial action short of a strike is a breach of contract.
If the work to rule is a refusal to carry out normal duties which are required by the contract, employees will be in breach of contract.
It is not as clear if these duties are implied in the contract rather than expressly included.
Refusal to carry out genuinely voluntary duties is not a breach of contract but it may nevertheless amount to industrial action.
Whether or not there is a breach of contract is important in relation to pay deductions.
If there is a breach of contract, that will affect pay. The general principles are:
Employees are not entitled to pay for any period when they are on strike.
Employees taking industrial action short of a strike but in breach of contract have:
- no entitlement to pay if the employer decides to refuse to accept a partial performance of the contract and tells employees that they should attend work only when they are prepared to fully comply with their contracts and until they do so they will not be paid. The employer has to show that the partial performance has a fundamental impact on the core purpose of their job.
- an entitlement to pay where the employer allows them to carry on working and instead makes an appropriate (reasonable) deduction from pay.
Voice Poster ("Strike?") (pdf)
- openly seek opportunities and elected positions to promote Voice policies
- collect petitions
- exploit local and national media and the Internet
- create public platforms
- lobby MPs and councillors
- demonstrate outside working hours
- invoke parental pressure and support
- seek support from governing bodies
- persuade employers to declare their position on issues
- use employment law to register official disputes
- monitor the efficiency and performance of employers
use your contractual rights to protest against employers which sanction disruption of the children’s education or care.