Teacher strikes: NEU attacks Keegan ‘fishing expedition’

Union bosses strongly reject suggestion by education secretary that they delayed sharing ballot results with school leaders
24th January 2023, 2:47pm

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Teacher strikes: NEU attacks Keegan ‘fishing expedition’

https://www.tes.com/magazine/news/general/teacher-strikes-neu-attacks-gillian-keegan-fishing-expedition
No fishing sign, kingfisher

The NEU teaching union has rebutted suggestions by the education secretary that it delayed notifying heads and leaders of ballot results, calling her claims a “fishing expedition”.

The union has published correspondence with Gillian Keegan revealing that she asked a series of detailed questions about the timings of strike ballot announcements.

The NEU announced last Monday that teachers would go on strike from 1 February after 90 per cent of teacher members voted for strike action in a ballot turnout of 53 per cent. 

The correspondence published today shows that, on Saturday, Ms Keegan wrote to NEU joint general secretaries Kevin Courtney and Dr Mary Bousted, saying her officials were “keen to understand better the timeline from the closing of your ballot on 13 January 2023, the declaration of results and the correspondence” between the NEU and employers.

In the letter, Ms Keegan asked whether the ballot results were provided to employers late in the evening on 17 January. If this were the case, she asked, why did the NEU decide to announce the ballot results via a Facebook Live event at 5pm the next day before sending them to employers?

However, the NEU has hit back in a written reply to Ms Keegan, stating the ballot results were provided to employers at or shortly after 5pm last Monday.

The letter stated that the information “was made available to NEU members and employers at the same time” and there was “no delay to the dissemination of the ballot results”.

Commenting on the correspondence today, Dr Bousted and Mr Courtney said in a joint statement: “It will greatly disappoint our members to learn that Gillian Keegan prefers a fishing expedition to constructive negotiations over pay and funding.”

They added it seemed “like a desperate move on behalf of a government with no answers for teachers and support staff”. 

And they thought it was “obvious” that there was “no employer in the country who didn’t know the result, if they wanted to know the result of our ballot”. 

The union bosses added that they were willing to meet Ms Keegan “any time, any place” for further discussions, but that “no further dates” had as yet been proposed. 

Last Friday, Dr Bousted had warned that “we are going to have to move mountains” to avoid a strike over pay after six hours of talks with government officials ended in little progress.

Ms Keegan also asked in her letter to the NEU why the independent scrutineer Civica did not provide the ballot results to NEU on 13 January 2023 when the ballots closed.

Dr Bousted and Mr Courtney said that Civica “had been clear throughout the ballot process (including prior to the closing of the balloting period) that, due to the size and complexity of the ballots, the final results would not be made available to the union until noon on Monday 16 January 2023” and that the union presumed this was the reason.

The DfE has been contacted for comment.

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