In light of the on-going action being carried out by teaching and non teaching colleagues in schools currently, the following advice is given to UTU members. This advice tells you how to give support to strike action by other unions and help make that action a success, in particular by ensuring that work of those on strike is not covered by others, while avoiding the risk of breach of contract or disciplinary action yourself.
Whenever colleagues in ICTU affiliated trade unions are involved in industrial action, UTU reps should advise the Principal that members will not accept any variation to their contracted duties and/or undertake the responsibilities of those engaged in action.
Principals, having been notified of the number participating in the strike action by the union involved in their school, will make a judgement about whether the school will remain fully open, partially open, (i.e. some year groups/class sent home) or will close. The UTU rep will need to confirm that the Principal has undertaken a risk assessment based on the potential impact on the school of the absence of the staff who will be involved in the action.
In the case of some pupils remaining at home and others attending school, UTU members should not be expected to carry out two roles simultaneously; members cannot be expected to teach in the classroom and provide remote learning at the same time. Members should also ensure that they are not being redeployed in any way to carry out duties which are normally the responsibility of their colleagues taking action.
If the decision is made to close the school, the Principal will decide whether it is closed only to pupils. UTU members are not involved in the action, so should report to work or can work from home if directed by the Principal. UTU members should follow the instruction of the Principal in this matter.
However, UTU members should ensure that the work they would be directed to undertake in school in the absence of pupils would not constitute any element of work which would normally be undertaken by a member of staff on strike and thus undermine the action. They should also be satisfied that the school remaining open in the absence of key staff fully addresses the health and safety of the children involved.
UTU members should not suffer any salary deduction if the school closes.
Official picket lines
Where a union in action establishes an official picket line, refusal to cross it would render a teacher liable to be disciplined, including the deduction of salary, as it would be considered as participating in unlawful industrial action.
The single exception to this is where there are genuine grounds to believe that crossing the picket line would put you at risk of injury. In these circumstances members should contact the Principal or an appropriate senior person in the school or Employing Authority if the Principal is not available. They should also contact UTU HQ for support and advice.
In all other circumstances members should cross the picket line assuring those picketing that they will not undertake work those on strike would normally have carried out.