Demonstrate in support of Ricky Jones and his family, Saturday April 26th (12pm Stoke Newington Common)Posted: April 3, 2008
For 10 years Ricky Jones has been the caretaker at William Patten Primary School in Stoke Newington Church Street. He and his family face eviction from their home because the school’s governors say there is no longer a need for a residential caretaker.
Ricky lives in the school grounds with wife, Lisa, a teacher at nearby Princess May Primary School, and his three children, two of whom also attend William Patten Primary.
Ricky is also the Unison Convenor for Hackney Education. If this proposal goes ahead it will be the final act in a series of acts of victimisation which Ricky has endured because he is an effective trade unionist.
Brian Debus, chairman of the Hackney branch of Unison, said: “If they manage to get away with removing Ricky from his post, this will be a precedent move for all residential caretakers.”
French multinational company Sodexho has been forced to stop paying poverty wages to their canteen staff at Haggerston School. From September the canteen staff will be paid the London living wage and over the next year, their wages will increase to £9 an hour achieving equality with their fellow workers in another Hackney school.
The victory was achieved after a very successful one-day strike in
June. On the day of the strike the catering workers set up a picket
line and 35 teachers and 2 technicians refused to cross the picket
line. Sodexho attempted to smash the strike by bringing in managers
to run the kitchens. However, due to the support of the teachers,
most pupils had to be sent home.
The school is tied into a PFI contract with Sodexho who built a
canteen in return for a long-term contract. Sodexho then complained
that they weren’t making enough profit due to the government’s
healthy eating initiative. This was their justification for paying
their staff less than the minimum wage.
The teachers and technicians who refused to cross the picket line on
the day of the strike were threatened with disciplinary action by
the school’s head teacher. They were given letters instructing them
to attend individual interviews and warning them that they were
being investigated for misconduct or gross misconduct – which could
lead to dismissal.
The trade unionists received excellent support from across the
country from rank and file activists and other militants.
Unfortunately they were not supported by the National Union of
Teachers. The General Secretary, Steve Sinnott, wrote to the 35 NUT
members who had not crossed the picket line, warning them that if
they did it again they would be sacked! This was the fourth
repudiation letter NUT members had received during the dispute.
NUT members were however supported by the local branch of the union,
who agreed to represent all NUT members at these disciplinary
hearings. At the very first interview, the management were asked to
produce the disciplinary policy they were using. After a farcical
hour of ransacking filing cabinets, the management were unable to
produce the disciplinary policy or any record of one having been
adopted. The interviews were therefore cancelled.
Despite this embarrassment, the head teacher waited until the day
before the summer holidays to inform “the accused” that any threat
of disciplinary action had been withdrawn. Citing the resolution of
the dispute between the catering staff and Sodexho as well as the
need for good staff relations, rather than their own ineptitude,
staff were informed that no disciplinary action would be taken –
unless it happens again!
The victory of the catering staff and the solidarity shown by the
teachers and technicians at Haggerston shows that strike action can
win – even when we are fighting a multinational company involved in
privatisation. And whatever the anti-union laws might say, the
words “you don’t cross picket lines” remain fundamental to all
workers in struggle.
Members of Unite – the union at Haggerston School – are to strike on Wednesday June 27 in a bid to increase their pay above the national minimum wage.
The kitchen staff – employed by contractors Sodexho – are paid nearly £4 an hour less than other similar staff across the Borough.
“We have done everything we could to avoid a strike,” said Unite T&G Section regional industrial organiser Paul Fawcett. “We have been delaying implementation of the strike decision by our members in the hope that Sodexho would see sense and pay our members a fair wage. We suggested staging an increase.
“But it has all been a waste of time, unfortunately. The company is behaving like dinosaurs from the least enlightened period of British management, with absolutely no interest in justice or social responsibility.”
For further information please call the T&G section of
Unite Press Office on 020 7611 2550
Haggerston School increased it’s number of pupils gaining five A*-C grades by 14 per cent compared to last year, making it the most improved school in the borough.
Last July, there was a big demonstration of parents and pupils against the Learning Trust’s plans to make Haggerston a mixedsex school. The Learning Trust walked out of a meeting before Christmas, refusing to discuss the issue with parents.
So why, when it is so successful and there is so much opposition from the local community, does the Learning Trust want to force changes on Haggerston School? It’s most likely that this is a first step towards making Haggerston School a City Academy – they know there’ll be even more opposition to an academy, so they’ll force changes on Haggerston as it is in order to run it into the ground.
The following email was received by Hackney Independent in relation to the current plans for Haggerston School.
We will keep you updated on developments as and when they happen.
Hands off Haggerston School say the pupils
‘Building work has started at Haggerston school after planning permission was granted without the normal consultation with local residents.
A massive sports center and floodlit pitch is being built, while the sports pitch across the road in Haggerston Park has been shut down because the council cannot spend the £6,200 quoted to maintain the all weather surface.
Hackney knows that the school will be more attractive to outside investors once it has a spanking new sports facility.
Very few sports are played at the school despite the fact they have a huge playground and a big park just across the road.
Planning permission was given for the new sports centre without any info being given to local residents. The council claims 85 letters were sent out and no objections received, but no one can be found in the three streets most affected — Dunloe Street, Dawson Street or Scawfell Street who remembers receiving a letter. The council has a list of every letter they claim to have sent, but this does not tally with the memory of people who definitely did not receive them.’
Why does the council want to turn Haggerston School into a City Academy?
Haggerston School is a popular and successful part of our community. The top schools inspector stated it was among the most successful schools in the country. Haggerston came third in the borough’s “league table”.
So why does Hackney Council want to force Haggerston School to become a privately-sponsored mixed-sex City Academy?
The government plans to bring in just 200 city academies across the country. So why have Hackney Council and their private “Learning Trust” company that runs our schools, made it clear they want every secondary school in Hackney to become either a City Academy or foundation school? Most councils will not even have a City Academy, but they want us to have four!
Looking around the country it is clear that other councils have run successful schools into the ground so they can sell them off as City Academies.
Hands off Haggerston Campaign information sheet
Turning Haggerston into a mixed school is one way of doing this.
It looks like it’s a two-part plan – first change a popular girls’ school to a mixed school, then offer extra funding if it goes over to being a City Academy.
Whatever the pros and cons of mixed schools, we should oppose this change until the Council guarantee us that they will not make Haggerston a City Academy.
We know we are not alone thinking this. While the Council and the Learning Trust cook up their plans for Haggerston School, Hackney Independent went out to ask people what they thought. In a survey carried out across Fellows Court in June and July, we found 85% of people opposed the Council’s plans.
Why are our Labour council trying to force this change to Haggerston School on us?
It is because they are obsessed with privatising everything and getting rid of their responsibilities for everything from running swimming pools to cleaning our estates.
They’ve already privatised our estate managers, now they want to shift the whole of council housing to an ALMO company.
They’ve got rid of the running of our schools to the private Learning Trust, now they want rid of as many schools as they can to City Academies.
Privatising and transferring responsibility from the council is their one and only answer to everything.
Our children are being used as guinea pigs in the biggest change in education since they brought in comprehensives. This time it is not about a fair deal for all our kids, it is about privatising our schools.
We support the Haggerston School parents, pupils and staff and stand alongside them and Shoreditch tenants and residents in opposing the council’s plans. As the girls’ banner in our photo says: “Hands off Haggerston”!
(from IWCA national website)
When Diane Abbott criticised Harriet Harman over her choice of schools for her kids, she was applauded for her principles and good sense. How times change. Diane Abbott, MP for Hackney and Stoke Newington, elected to represent one of the capital’s and the country’s poorest areas, has decided that the local state schools aren’t good enough for her son. So instead, master James Abbott is off to the £10,000 a year City of London School.
Trying to justify ditching her principles, she attempted to deny that she had ever had a go at Harman. Unfortunately Abbott’s criticism that Harman had ‘made the Labour Party look as if we do one thing and say another’, is on record. She also tried to shift responsibility for the dramatic U-turn onto her twelve year old son, although later she relented and at least had the courage to own up to it being her decision.
And what about the good sense she showed in trying to do the job she was elected to do; that is represent the residents of Hackney and Stoke Newington? Well she might be able to claim that she is still representing some of them; the ones who have a spare £10,000 a year to spend on school fees. But its pretty clear she’s walked away from the vast majority of those who live in the area, for whom the prospect of having a spare ten grand is about as remote as that of having their own spot on a BBC TV discussion show.
All of this is hypocritical and patronising ‘do as I say, not as I do’ politics of the worst sort. The hypocrisy of a member of the supposedly redder than red Socialist Campaign Group of MPs sending her son to a public school is there for all too see. She even admitted as much herself when she said: ‘It’s absolutely true that it’s inconsistent, to put it mildly, for someone who believes in a fairer society to send their child to a private school. I’ve always believed that private schools prop up the class structure of society. ‘
But the patronising attitude, which says to all those parents in Hackney who don’t have a spare £10,000 knocking about, ‘well the local secondary schools aren’t good enough for my James but they’ll do for your sons and daughters’, is if anything, even more gut wrenching.
Her lack of interest in the day-to-day lives of her constituents was only compounded when, on Radio 4’s Today programme, she claimed that part of the reason, for what she now admitted was her decision, was down to gun crime in Hackney’s secondary schools. What this apparent admission of government failure tells the people of Hackney and Stoke Newington, and in particular the area’s working class residents who don’t have the option of opting out, is that not only does their MP think the schools aren’t educationally good enough but also that they’re physically dangerous as well.
Former Labour minister Gerald Kaufman, seems to have hit on something with his comments that: ‘Diane Abbott, left-wing socialist and wonderful moraliser, says one thing and does another. I hope the people of Hackney take notice of that.’
Maybe they will when they have the opportunity to vote for one of their peers. In the meantime, if an MP of whatever party publicly removed her child from a school on the grounds of race we all know what it would be called. But publicly endorsing social apartheid, which after all is essentially what private education is intended to secure, is a different matter it seems, And if this is acceptable in the field of education then the same principle must apply in other spheres too—housing, health and crime being three that spring to mind.
A government report to be published shortly will show that Middle England receives better treatment from the NHS than that offered to working class people. And this is happening at a time when crime rates in middle class areas is going down, while violent crime in working class communities continues to escalate. Why is this? Because, whether it’s education, law and order or medical treatment, Middle England insists that when it comes down to it their interests are given priority.
It has taken a long time to get here, but all of the above is now politically acceptable largely because all of the three mainstream parties instinctively and unapologetically identify with what is a privileged minority. This is not too surprising when the influential members are, to a man or woman, all members of this same privileged minority.
So, while not denying Gerald Kaufman may have a point, the core contradiction here is not that Diane Abbot is going to send her own child to private school. No, the essential political inconsistency is how she ever came to represent the working class majority in Hackney in the first place.