Advice on industrial action

Some employees at a workplace may not take part in industrial action; therefore they may still be expected to work if the workplace stays open. They are many issues that may arise in the event of a strike that you are not taking part in.

As a member of Voice you may be unsure of what will happen to you in the event that teachers from another union at your school that indoustial action or go on strike. Below are our guidelines on what will be expected of you, your employer and your striking colleagues in such situations.

If you are ever unsure of your position, please contact us on 01332 372 337 to clarify.

I’m not striking?

If you are not striking and would normally work on the day that a strike is taking place, you should tell your manager in writing in advance of the strike that you are available for work.

Click here to download our letter to employer template (Word) to use in the event of a strike.

If you work on that day, make sure that you know in advance of any special arrangements that may be made, such as specific buildings or departments being closed. If the employer closes the whole workplace, you still need to write to your employer to inform them about your availability to work (not taking part in the strike) as if your employer is aware that you are available for work and intend to work in line with your contract, you should be paid if the workplace is closed. Failure to pay you in such circumstances would be a breach of contract, and you should contact Voice for advice.

What work would I do in the event of a strike?

Employees should undertake their own work as reasonably instructed by their headteacher or manager. This includes contractual duties and any non-contractual duties members would normally undertake.

In the event of industrial action, employees may be directed to undertake extra duties, but that direction must be reasonable e.g. support staff should continue with their own duties, but shouldn’t cover classes for a teacher who is on strike. The Department for Education states:

Where teachers are employed under the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document, however they cannot be compelled to provide cover for other teachers during industrial action. Cover supervisors, or teachers who are employed wholly or mainly to provide cover and are not taking industrial action themselves, can be directed to provide cover during industrial action by teachers or non-teaching staff.

While Voice and its members do not take industrial action that is damaging to education, we urge members to respect the right of others to do so. Therefore, members should not take up the duties of those colleagues on strike, unless the circumstances are special that individual consciences dictate otherwise, such as the health and safety of children being jeopardised.

Click here to access the DfE document on Holding Strike action in schools.

Getting to work

Employees who are not taking part in industrial action need to make a determined effort to get to work if the workplace is open. If possible, go to work with a colleague if they also aren’t taking part.

You may need to walk past any lawful picket line and we would advise you not to engage in discussion or argument at this point. In the unlikely event that the picket line intimidates you, it may be unlawful. We would recommend that you back off and telephone your employer who should assist you and give further help and advice on request.

Picket Lines

Colleagues who are striking are permitted to picket peacefully at their workplace, but not another workplace. It is acceptable for pickets to try to convince colleagues not to cross the picket line and they are entitled to expect non-striking colleagues to stop and listen to their views, however, picket lines are not entitled to obstruct another employee’s entry to their workplace. 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 due to obstruction, we would expect the employer to decide not to treat their absence as industrial action.

Health and safety

Health and safety law as well as school, college and nursery procedures and policies continue to apply in the event of a strike. If you are concerned about your health and safety or that of the children at your workplace, contact Voice immediately for advice on the matter.

For more information, see our information sheet: Industrial Action: Strike Action.

Voice’s stance on those who take industrial action

While Voice and its members do not take industrial action that is damaging to education, we respect the right of others to do so. Therefore, members should not take up the duties laid down by their colleagues in the event of a strike, unless the circumstances are special that individual consciences dictate otherwise, such as the health and safety of children being jeopardised, or where late action has prevented management to arrange replacement staff so necessitating the cancellation of a national examination.

Access our information sheet: Industrial Action: Strike Action