Education Secretary ‘Thicky’ Nicky Morgan took the National Union of Teachers to court to prevent the action, claiming it was politically-motivated – but the judge threw out the claim that the strike was unlawful.
This is a victory for common sense, of course. It is the Tory claim that was politically-motivated; politics could only have been a secondary consideration for the strikers, whose concerns were far closer to their own home.
And it shows that – if you can get your case into a court – it is still possible to defeat the Conservative Government.
It seems the Tories have not managed to buy the judiciary… yet.
A last-minute attempt by the government to halt a one-day strike by sixth form college teachers has been thrown out by the high court in London.
Industrial action will now go ahead on Tuesday by sixth form college members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) who are striking amid growing concern about what they say is a “severe funding crisis” in education for 16- to 19-year-olds.
The Department for Education took the union to court on Monday in an attempt to have the strike declared unlawful, claiming it was based on political grounds rather than – as required by law – a trade dispute about terms and conditions of employment.
Clive Sheldon QC, representing the education secretary, Nicky Morgan, said there was no current dispute between the NUT and employers as a pay claim was settled at the end of February. He argued that the strike was part of the union’s “Save Our Colleges” political campaign.
But the union argued that the cuts were having a direct impact on members’ terms and conditions and therefore they were within their rights to strike. After a day of argument, the judge, Mr Justice Kerr, said that the balance came down against granting an urgent declaration that the strike was unlawful.
Kevin Courtney, NUT deputy general secretary, said the high court’s decision was a victory for democracy and common sense. “It is abundantly clear that government cuts to sixth form college funding are having a direct impact on our members’ terms and conditions and as such we are entitled to take strike action.
“Sixth form colleges provide a vital service to over 150,000 young people, many from disadvantaged backgrounds. Yet government funding cuts mean many of those services will soon be financially unviable. The cuts will result in a further loss of courses, job losses and increased class sizes.
“The NUT has been left with no option but to raise awareness of the problem through industrial action,” he added.
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