Here we answer some common questions about Industrial Action, such as who can go on strike, how strike action would happen, and what the alternatives are.
What is Industrial Action?
Industrial action is when a Trade Union instructs its members to refuse to perform their contractual obligations for their employer. This happens when members have a dispute with their employer that hasn’t been resolved through discussion and negotiation. It might be at the level of a single employer – for example a local authority, or a MAT. Or, it might be a national issue, like pay or working time. Then the dispute is with the Government.
Action might be to strike. If your union calls for strike action, you will be told when that is happening and for how long. Or your union might give instructions ‘short of strike action’, for example working to rule, not doing anything above and beyond what is in your contract of employment.
Industrial action, especially strike action is ALWAYS the last resort. it is not something that NSEAD will enter into lightly.
Is it legal to take Industrial Action?
Good question! It is not legal for an individual employee to take industrial action unless it has been called by their trade union. A Trade Union has significant legal obligations to follow and honour in order for industrial action to be called, When a Trade Union calls for Industrial Action, members of the Trade Union are protected in law from retaliatory actions by their employer. If the action hasn’t been called by your Trade Union, following the correct procedures, it isn’t legal and you would not be protected.
What are the stages NSEAD has to follow to call Industrial Action?
All Trade Unions have to follow a strict process in order to call Industrial action. Firstly, the NSEAD Council will consult with members so that they can understand the mood and feeling for action amongst NSEAD members. This is essential, as NSEAD must listen to what members want to do. You can make your view known by attending online meetings or emailing the General Secretary, picking up the phone
If NSEAD members suggest they are in favour of NSEAD organising for industrial action, NSEAD will carry out an online survey, to accurately gauge member strength of feeling. Then, If it is clear that members want to vote for industrial action, NSEAD will organise a formal postal ballot, coordinated by an independent organisation, that will ask members to vote yes or no for industrial action. 50% of the TU membership would have to take part, and it would need at least 40% to vote ‘yes’ for action to be lawful.
Then and only then would the process of industrial action begin.
Make sure we have your correct email address and phone number and your home address. You can check whether we have the correct contact information by visiting the NSEAD member portal, via the NSEAD website.
What if NSEAD members haven’t voted to take action?
NSEAD members may not vote to take action, even if other Trade Unions have. If you are not directly instructed to take action by your Trade Union you must not join other colleagues in their action. You can show your support in many ways, but you must not refuse to work. If you do, you will be in breach of your contract.
What if NSEAD members do vote for action. Do I have to strike?
If NSEAD members do vote for action, you don’t have to take part. We appreciate that it is not always possible for members to strike and there may be other reasons why you don’t feel able to take part in action short of strike. That said, once a union has voted and called for action, it will only be effective if enough people take part.
I’m a Professional Associate member of NSEAD. What do I do about industrial action?
If you are a Professional Associate or collegiate member of NSEAD, you are not directly affected by the Trade Union arm of NSEAD. We have members of our professional association who are members of other trade unions, and their trade unions should be contacting them about their response.
Will I get paid for days I am taking strike action?
You won’t be paid for any days that you take strike action. You will be withdrawing your labour, so your employer will be able to reduce your pay for each day of strike action taken. Additionally, your employer will also be able to make deductions with regards to their employer National Insurance and employer Teachers Pension contributions.
Will my school penalise me if I take part in industrial action?
Your school cannot penalise you if you take part in industrial action that has been lawfully instructed by your Trade Union, although they can withhold pay for work not done or absence due to strike. When a Trade Union calls for Industrial Action, members of the Trade Union are protected in law from retaliatory actions by their employer.
Is there any alternative to strike action?
There are definitely alternatives to strike action. One such alternative is known as ‘Action Short of Strike Action’, which in effect means only working to what your contract stipulates. This can be a meaningful option as no-one loses pay, but it is very disruptive. NSEAD will always look to avoid taking any industrial action, but sometimes it may be the only option left. You have the right to withdraw your labour, but it is never something that any teacher would wish to do.
Does NSEAD work with the other education unions?
NSEAD is a member of the TUC, and as a trade union member, you are part of a movement of millions of workers throughout the UK. The NSEAD General Secretary meets regularly with other Trade union leaders, and will always discuss any possible action with the other trade unions who represent teachers. NSEAD will always do all we can to support our sister trade unions, but we will always make the decisions that are right for our members, and act in their best interests.
Co-ordinated action FAQs
Our movement is strongest when we act together, and joint action by those unions representing teachers in England could have real impact. At the present time it is far from clear whether there is sufficient unity amongst the education unions for this to be possible.
Will the education unions be working together to cement unity and maintain joint action?
Attempts have been made by the TUC to facilitate a joint approach, however, for the very reason that there is not one unified Teachers’ Union, this means that there exist differences of opinion as to how best to work together. The larger Trade Unions will want to appear as strong and decisive as this approach appeals to their membership and recruitment needs, but this can naturally hinder cooperation.
Will the education unions come together to put the same options to their members in any ballot for action?
The options should be similar as the challenge being proposed concerns a below inflationary pay rise (real terms pay cut) and the Secretary of State for Education is being held accountable for this. NSEAD expects this to be the motion being balloted with members being asked whether they support strike action and/or action short of strike action or no action.
Will the education unions hold ballots for action at the same time, and announce the results at the same time?
This is unlikely unless the TUC can coordinate the Education Unions to act collectively in the interests of all teachers. As each union is responsible for the administration of their own ballot, only though cooperation can simultaneous ballots and days of action be synchronised.
Will there be a date for a national strike, or will individual unions strike on different days?
As previously mentioned, simultaneous action cannot be assured. It may transpire that each union strikes on different days, or they may announce joint days of action. This is very much for the largest unions to reach agreement over.