STEM 6 free school renege on commitment to recognise teachers’ union. Strikes action back on this week

4 February 2014
Front of the 15,000 strong march

Front of the 15,000 strong march

Following a meeting last night where STEM 6 Principal, John O’Shea reneged on written commitments to recognise the NUT – to which most teachers at the newly opened free school belong – and to enter in to “meaningful negotiations” about staff terms and conditions, strike action previously called for tomorrow and Thursday this week is to go ahead.

Last Wednesday, the day before teachers were to begin strike action in support of union recognition, John O’Shea wrote to the NUT:

Just to confirm that we are willing to recognise the NUT and a commitment to enter into meaningful negotiations about the terms and conditions about the contract and to install a local and national representative within the Academy.
We would be willing to sign a formal recognition agreement

Please let me know some dates/times when you are free so we could meet next week

John O’Shea


STEM Academy Tech City

After receiving this firm written commitment, the NUT and its members at STEM 6 suspended last Thursday’s action to allow the agreed negotiations to take place.

We were hopeful, especially after Tony Sewell, Chair of STEM 6 governors, had apologised to teachers on Thursday for failing to listen to their concerns and removing some of the most objectionable  terms in the contracts they had been forced to sign under duress – such as a zero hours clause – that a line could be drawn under STEM 6’s previously dismissive and intimidating attitude to its teachers and that, once a recognition agreement had been signed, constructive negotiations could begin that would bring the terms and conditions in to line with those enjoyed by teachers in maintained schools.

So we were shocked yesterday afternoon first to receive a message from John O’Shea that he had decided to “postpone” the meeting which had been agreed for 5pm last night because “The NUT has not sought recognition rights with the CAC [Central Arbitration] so I cannot negotiate with you”.

This blatant demonstration of bad faith was either completely disingenuous, badly informed – or both. The NUT has never sought “statutory recognition,” both because we think that it is inappropriate and unnecessary (recognition which has to be enforced by law is unlikely to be genuine) and, as John O’Shea had previously stressed to us in writing before his commitments last week, as a pretext for refusing to recognise us at all, statutory recognition can only apply to 21 or more employees, a stipulation which the NUT is, of course, fully aware.

John O’Shea’s game-playing last night has made it even more difficult to resolve this dispute –and the real losers are going to be the STEM 6 students, many of who have made it manifestly clear that they support their teachers’ right to have their trade union recognised and to be treated in a civilised way.

The strike action (two days this week, to be followed by another three days next week) will now go ahead because STEM 6 teachers have lost all trust in their Principal and governors to keep their promises.

This morning we learned that John O’Shea has told his staff that the school will be closed tomorrow “because of the tube strike”.

Ken Muller, Assistant Secretary of Islington NUT commented:

This game playing must stop if we are going to return to where we were after STEM 6 agreed last week to recognise the NUT and enter in to meaningful negotiations with us about teachers’ terms and conditions.

Closing STEM 6 “because of the tube strike” is yet another act of dishonesty aimed at denying the demonstrably obvious reality that teachers at the school are angry at the disgraceful way in which they are being treated and are prepared to take the action necessary to rectify the situation.

Other schools in Islington, such as the Islington Sixth Form College just up the road from STEM 6, are open, despite the strike.

The sooner John O’Shea and the STEM 6 governors honour their promises, respect their teachers and sign a standard TUC drafted union recognition agreement the sooner we can enter in to constructive negotiations about staff terms and conditions of employment and the sooner the school can focus on what it is meant to be doing: providing students with the high quality of education to which they are entitled.

Unfortunately, because they have not been able to do this, teachers at STEM 6 will be striking tomorrow and Thursday and picketing from 7.30 am onwards.

For further information, call Ken Muller on 07950075088 or email


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