School Staff National Negotiations

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2008 Local Government Service Group Conference
12 June 2008
Carried as Amended

Conference is aware that there has been a dramatic increase in the numbers of support and professional staff employed in schools over the last 5 years. In addition, their roles and responsibilities have also increased however pay has not always kept place with this.

Conference notes the Secretary of State, Ed Balls’, announcement last autumn, that he intended to set up a new national negotiating body for school support staff by September 2008. This new body will establish a national framework of pay and conditions for all support and professional staff in maintained schools in England, except Academies and will impact on the future organisation of this group of workers. It will include the recognised trade unions and the relevant employers including the Local Government Employers and representatives of the Roman Catholic and Church of England Dioceses, and the Foundation and Aided Schools National Association (FASNA).

Although a number of other unions are recruiting school staff UNISON remains the largest union for this group and must have the strongest voice in any talks on a national framework.

As discussions continue on the new negotiating structure for school staff it is essential that the ‘professionalisation’ of the school workforce is taken fully into account. This must include the whole range of staff whose jobs have changed e.g. teaching assistants, nursery nurses, school administrators, technicians, learning mentors, site supervisors and caretakers, etc.

Conference believes staff in schools must have professional pay to reward their increased responsibilities, as well as training and staff development opportunities which recognise this.

Conference confirms that the principles agreed at last years conference of what should be included must continue to underpin these negotiations. These were to ensure any national framework:

1)can deliver a fair and equality proofed pay and grading structure;

2)applies to all maintained schools and is supported by statutory underpinning;

3)is capable of delivering justice for term-time workers. Conference is concerned however about the lack of support for branches fighting the introduction of term time conditions;

4)can deliver a career and staff development structure across the range of support and professional staff in schools;

5)includes improvements on rights to facilities and time-off for unions representing school support and professional staff.

In addition conference calls for the union to campaign for support staff in Academies to be brought into the scope of any new national negotiating body.

Conference welcomes the fact the Government appear to have accepted the principle of statutory underpinning.

Branches and school staff members are best placed to provide the detailed information our negotiators will require and so Conference believes it is essential that branches and school staff are fully consulted, that school staff representatives are involved in negotiations and reconfirms its commitment to ballot school staff on any proposals.

Conference notes that the Service Group Executive has already established an interim School Staff Sector Committee and now calls on the SGE to bring forward plans for a permanent school staff sector committee to the local government conference in 2009.

Conference endorses the continued consultation with support staff in Wales and Northern Ireland on whether they should be within the scope of the new national body.

Conference calls on the Service Group Executive to:

1)Ensure any new proposals on pay and conditions recognise the contribution of the whole workforce;

2)ensure training and staff development is a key component of any new proposals and is adequately funded to cover issues on time-off and backfill for school staff;

3)Consult with school staff and branches as early as possible on any new proposals;

4)Raise UNISON’s profile in schools by launching a publicity campaign to ensure school staff members as well as head teachers are aware of any agreement and what UNISON can do for them;

5)Provide clear and timely information to regions, branches and, in particular, schools representatives and members;

To be effective the union needs to ensure branches are able to support school representatives. Whilst many branches and regions have been successful in recruiting and organising school staff, this is an ideal opportunity to strengthen bargaining power by launching a dedicated recruitment drive in schools to boost membership and density levels. Conference therefore calls on the SGE to develop organising and recruitment to include:

a)Improved time off with backfilling in schools as appropriate, and facilities arrangements for trade union representatives dealing with schools and school staff issues. This must apply across all types of schools;

b)Developing a training programme and training materials for school and branch representatives on any new pay and conditions arrangements, including recognition agreements;

c)Recruitment materials highlighting UNISON’s role, encouraging more school members to join the union and take an active part in the life of the union, and plans to develop a school trade union representatives network;