A SENIOR borough councillor has come under fire for attacking a teachers’ union ahead of crucial talks today over job losses at a Rotherham school.
Labour councillor Paul Lakin, Cabinet member for children’s services, weighed in to the dispute by claiming that the National Union of Teachers was “unwilling to behave reasonably” in the six-week-old Rawmarsh Community School dispute in which teachers again went on strike this Tuesday.
But furious NUT regional official Ian Stevenson hit back, saying that Cllr Lakin’s comments were “antagonistic and unhelpful” and likely to inflame the situation shortly before a meeting convened by the union with the headteacher and the borough council this morning.
In the first comments by a borough councillor, Cllr Lakin claimed in a letter to the Advertiser that the NUT was “making it difficult” to resolve matters.
He said: “I wanted everyone to be aware that every effort has been made to resolve this dispute but despite all our efforts, the NUT do not seem prepared to end their action and are intent on continuing to cause these difficulties.
“At the most recent meeting with the NUT, their regional organiser assured the head teacher that the key to resolving this dispute was to avoid compulsory redundancies at Easter.
“The school worked hard to make this happen and the response from the NUT was to fax the school with further strike dates.
“Prior to Rawmarsh Community School’s recent Ofsted inspection, we suggested to the NUT that, just for one day at least, they might postpone their action and help in the preparations for the inspection day. We were saddened by their response, which refused our request.
“Our determination to resolve this dispute has led to us speaking to ACAS to seek their help with this matter.
“Again it is worrying that the response from the NUT to ACAS was to decline their involvement.”
Mr Stevenson retorted: “For a start, the council has not been involved in the negotiations or had any direct involvement, so he’s commenting on what has been reported to him.
“To say that there is no teacher being given compulsory redundancy at Easter is entirely false.
“They offered a person an extra term’s work on the basis that he take voluntary redundancy.
“They said to stay on for an extra term but resign now.
“Only by that sort of twisted logic could there be no compulsory redundancies at Easter.
“We said that if they agreed to withdraw that redundancy for Easter, while still being at risk from September, which would have cost no more than their proposal, we would consider scaling down our action, but they refused.”
ACAS involvement was declined because both parties knew the problem and how it could be resolved, he said.
“Cllr Lakin misrepresents the facts and his comments are antagonistic,” Mr Stevenson added.
“He blames the NUT for the position the school finds itself in and can only make it more difficult to resolve.”
More strikes are being staged on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday next week.
A benefit gig is being held at the Star Inn, Rawmarsh, next Friday. Teachers will lead an anti-cuts march in Rotherham on Saturday March 5.
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