Picket line cancelled outside Merrill Academy over safety concerns

police carNUT members on strike at the Merrill Academy in Derby have today suspended their picket line over concerns about safety after a pupil was hit by a car.

The police are investigating two incidents that took place yesterday, when the union says a pupil and a union official wearing a high-vis vest were hit by a car. Neither were seriously hurt.

NUT regional secretary Ian Stevenson said: “This is an official strike and we have been undertaking peaceful and lawful picketing activities. A picket line takes place by definition at the school gate and to picket a school during a strike is a legitimate activity for a trade union to undertake.

“The reaction of some senior staff at the school was to blame these incidents on the fact that pickets where present and to argue that ‘they shouldn’t be there’. That’s an argument contrary to both law and common sense. Drivers must adjust their driving to the actual road conditions at the time when pickets are present. You cannot disregard the safety of other road users because you would rather a picket line not be there.

“I have been concerned that in some cases vehicles were being driven towards pickets at speeds which anyone could see was unsafe with the potential to cause harm or serious injury. There is nothing more important than ensuring the safety of others. Therefore we are suspending the picketing for the next strike day.”

On Tuesday, Ian Stevenson himself was subject to intimidating driving by someone believed to be a member of staff.

He told USi News: “I was walking across the entrance, and as I turned round, in my peripheral vision, I saw a car coming at me. I thought it was going to slow down, but it sped up.

“I didn’t have time to react. It pulled up within inches of me. I was in shock and didn’t move. They were trying to drive through me.

“I asked the driver to get out of the car because I wanted their details, but they refused, saying my presence as intimidatory. After the police were called, the driver apologised and no further action was taken.”

The NUT and NASUWT members are today taking their third day’s action over what they say are “unacceptable working practices placing unnecessary burdens on teachers, undermining their professionalism”.

The NUT announced yesterday it is to take further action on February 4th, 5th, 17th, 18th, 25th and 26th.

Ian Stevenson said: “NUT members at the school are seriously aggrieved that they are being set impossible targets to achieve which have little educational value for the children they teach.

“NUT members like everyone else, want to be treated with respect and fairness and dignity at work, yet they are being unreasonably denied the pay progression they deserve when working hard for the school and indeed the community in which they serve.

“We are continuing to talk to the Academy to try to resolve this dispute and the NUT has put forward the proposal that we should engage in discussions with ACAS immediately and without any preconditions – should this be agreed the NUT is prepared to consider the suspension of further strike action.”

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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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