Kingsway Primary School staff vote for strike action over COVID hygiene

Teachers working at Kingsway Primary School in Wallasey say they have been left with no option but to walk out on Thursday December 10 – and five subsequent dates – over the school’s failure to address their concern about Covid-related health and safety measures, equal treatment and fairer management practices that promote the wellbeing of staff.

More than 85 percent of the National Education Union (NEU) members in the school voted for industrial action as the headteacher has failed to respond adequately to a collective grievance about health and safety concerns before the summer break.

An insider told birkenhead.news, “There were issues with the water system in school. I want people to know about the problems. Children had no working taps in their bubbles and when they flushed the toilets the sinks didn’t work. Staff toilets didn’t flush and had to use a bucket to flush. Health and safety issues like this just aren’t acceptable. Especially now.”

birkenhead.news spoke to Peter Middleton, Regional Secretary for the National Education Union (NEU) who said, “The issues came to our attention in the spring … and it became apparent that the staff were expressing some frustration at the management [of Kingsway Primary School] which had crystallised around sanitation and hygiene and the availability of washing facilities.” He added that since September, staff had expressed dissatisfaction with the school management regarding ‘student bubble’ measures designed to minimise or mitigate any chance of cross-infection.”

Peter Middleton continued, “Under most circumstances, these issues would have been resolved at school level, but the relationship between the staff and management are such that the management had demonstrated no appetite for a collegiate approach to resolving the problems”

The staff at the school were asked in a formal ballot whether further action should be taken. Bora Oktas, regional officer of the NEU, said, “Due to the employer’s failure to address their concerns about health and safety at work, they overwhelmingly said ‘yes’.”

Ian Harris, branch secretary of Wirral NEU, pointed out, “Our members have been working tirelessly throughout the pandemic to ensure the children they teach can access the education they deserve. It is unfortunate that during this time they have been hindered by the inaction of the employer and forced to make the difficult decision to move to formal action.

The strike action comes as the school management ignored a proposed dispute resolution document offered by teachers. Peter Middleman, NEU regional secretary, has called for more effort to avoid a strike from the local authority and the school governors. Referring to the document, which calls for better communication and respectful treatment of staff, he added, “The employer should consider the role that teachers at Kingsway have played in their efforts to make the school a safe place in which to teach and learn. Our members work hard for the local community, are respected by parents for doing so and they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect by their
employer. Our submitted proposals to resolve the dispute provide school leaders and the local authority to test their appetite for avoiding strike action which could close the school for a total six days either side of
the Christmas holiday. ”.

Peter Middleton said, “We remain very keen to avoid this dispute at all costs, but the ball is in the employer’s court.” He continued, “If it does come to a strike, there will be some inevitable disruption both to the day-to-day routine of parents and indeed on the impact of the students themselves. However, we are committed to strike action if the employer doesn’t come back to us with a workable offer in time.”

birkenhead.news contacted Kingsway Primary School for comment. However at the time of publication, the school management had not responded.

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