- 2012 Local Government Service Group Conference
- 1 January 2012
Resisting Attack and Seeking Justice for School Staff
This Conference condemns the Conservative-Liberal Democratic coalition government for its treatment of school support staff, the majority of this workforce female and low paid. After decades of neglect and tireless campaigning by UNISON, the School Support Staff Negotiating Body (SSSNB) was established in England with a statutory remit and power to introduce national terms and conditions for school support staff. Among its provisions was to be the establishment of a national definition of working time with a consistent and transparent way of arriving at pay, linked to job profiles and evaluation. It was hoped that the progress in this body would have also been a positive influence on the terms and conditions of school staff in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.
Other developments are threatening school staff:
1) The introduction of academies, trusts, free schools and forced academies, whose staff are outside of local government agreements;
2) The failure to conclude equal pay claims;
3) The introduction of term time pay for staff meaning some staff losing up to £5000 per year;
4) School meals staff having their hours cut due to reducing numbers of children taking up a school meal;
5) Job security in the face of funding cuts and widespread job loss amongst pupil support staff across Scotland as a result of Local Authority budget cuts;
6) The threat of increased pension contributions.
All increased costs and salary cuts these low paid staff can ill afford. With the fear of job losses constantly hanging over them, means that many staff are carrying out duties they are neither paid nor qualified to do; still carrying out medical procedures and putting themselves and children in their care at risk. The government’s agenda for education and schools includes:
a) an increased role for the private sector in the management of schools and the provision of support and advisory services;
b) reducing the role of local authorities;
c) or schools to be independent of local authorities, employing staff, setting terms and conditions, purchasing professional and other services as they choose.
In Scotland, despite a stated commitment to ensuring that education enables all children to achieve their potential, the reality has been that school support staff have been an easy target for Local Authority budget cuts.
The removal of community governors, staff governors and local authority governors in academies and free schools, will mean terms and conditions for school based staff will be more vulnerable to attack; this is driven by the government’s aspirations for greater deregulation of pay, terms and conditions for the schools workforce
Unison has over 350,000 members in education; staff include teaching assistants, nursery nurses, secretaries, care takers, school business managers, and school meal workers. These members are usually under-represented with regard to shop stewards and work place reps and we must continue to organise in schools to increase our shop stewards and work place representatives and make a robust case for facility time for these staff. UNISON can be proud of the work it has done to date in supporting and lobbying for these workers but the fight is far from over, with the governments aspirations for the deregulation of pay and deregulation of nurseries we must stand together stronger than ever before.
If these repeated attacks are allowed to continue we will be left with a workforce who will no longer be passionate in the jobs they are in. They are likely to become despondent and may seek alternative ‘easier’ employment.
UNISON needs to ensure that lobbying for national recognition of school support staff is an ongoing priority, to highlight the important role these staff play in raising our future society.
This Conference commits the service group executive to strengthen its resolve in defense of its school members and promotion of their interests. We call on the Service Group Executive to:
i) Lobby government for national pay recognition for school support staff; collecting
data on the outcome of single status negotiations for school staff, including
examples of success in defending full year contracts; the 32 and a half hour working
week and school-specific conditions such as retainer pay;
ii) Continue to highlight the essential role these staff play in raising our future society
using all methods available including local and national media and local public
iii) Produce guidance on negotiating strategies where term time pay is still to be
introduced; pursuing the issue of working time with employers to arrive at a
recommended approach; lobbying government to address the anomalies caused by
the term-time contract; and examining the possibility of legal challenge over issues
ensuing from the term-time contract such as holiday entitlement;
iv) Promote school meals take up to members and their families;
v) Lobby government on the proposed suggestions of deregulated nurseries and
highlight the negative impact this would have on children and families.
In particular, the service group is called upon to develop the Justice for School Staff campaign:
1) Issuing new school-based bargaining advice to branches;
2) Monitoring the impact of academisation on the school workforce;
3) Establishing regional forums to develop and take forward work programmes for school staff, feeding into the school sector committee and its agenda;
4) Waging a Justice for School Staff campaign to support the above.
Local Government Service Group Executive