England’s largest academy trust withholding back pay from staff, says UNISON

Many workers at United Learning chain losing out on wages

United Learning Trust (ULT) – England’s largest school academy chain – is withholding £1.5m in back pay from employees, says UNISON today (Friday).

The union has now launched a grievance on behalf of more than 3,000 support staff across the country against ULT, which runs 70 schools with more than 40,000 pupils.

UNISON is seeking up to £800 for each worker including teaching assistants, librarians and school technicians. This is the amount the union says ULT owes in back pay following the 2022/23 national pay award.

The Local Government Association deal agreed in November applies to the year from 1 April 2022 and most academy chains have backdated the new rate to take effect from this date.

However, UNISON says ULT has done this for just a fraction of its workforce – those who work at schools that have been taken over by the trust from councils.

All staff on the academy trust’s contracts have been paid the increase only from September* onwards.

The union says the education charity is creating a two-tier workforce by implementing different pay award dates.

UNISON says ULT can afford the £1.5m needed for all support staff to receive the amount paid to colleagues doing the same job.

UNISON head of education Mike Short said: “Every penny counts for low-paid workers, and even more so during the cost-of-living crisis.

“Support staff at the trust can’t afford to lose money they’re owed. They’ve earned it and desperately need to pay their bills.

“It’s grossly unfair for staff to do the same job as colleagues but get less pay. The academy trust must right this wrong and make sure all support workers are paid the same.”

Note to editors:
– *ULT has backdated the increase to April only for staff on National Joint Council (NJC) for local government services contracts. This includes workers employed by schools which ULT took over from local authorities. The academy trust’s negotiation process, which is separate from the NJC’s, runs from September to September.
– The NJC pay agreement for 2022/23 was for a flat rate of £1,925 for each worker. The money applies to each pay scale point with effect from 1 April 2022.
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.

Media contacts:
Liz Chinchen M: 07778 158175 E: press@unison.co.uk
Anthony Barnes M: 07834 864794 E: a.barnes@unison.co.uk