Joint campaign secures protections for school workers

Support workers, teaching staff and leadership unions unite in campaign over threat of redundancies

A joint campaign by education unions has secured “important protections” for staff at a 33-school multi academy trust which planned to cut nearly £1m from school budgets, meaning that up to 40 staff faced losing their jobs.

UNISON and all the other unions representing support staff, teaching staff and heads, declared a national dispute with the David Ross Education Trust (DRET) over its plans, affecting 33 schools across the Midlands, Yorkshire and Humberside.

But talks at conciliation service ACAS in May followed a “short but intense” campaign by the eight unions, which highlighted concerns over the impact on pupils as a result of lost jobs and featured helpful press coverage.

That meeting secured a number of important guarantees from DRET:

  • The trust pledged that there will be no compulsory redundancies in its planned restructuring and there will be a joint review of the position with the unions by the end of the first term in December 2017.
  • There will be an improved and enhanced redundancy scheme for voluntary payments, paying 1.75 weeks’ wages for each year of service, up to a maximum of 20 years. As had already been agreed, this will be based on actual weekly pay rather than the statutory minimum.
  • The consultation period on the proposed new structure will be extended, and applications for enhanced voluntary redundancy reopened, with the trust informing affected employees.
  • The meeting also produced a joint commitment to reviewing the workload of all staff – working in support, teaching or leadership  – and to work together to reduce workload.
  • There will also be a confidential joint survey of “academy level senior leadership teams” on the proposals; together with a joint review of special education needs admin and reception roles “to determine whether they should be excluded from the restructure”.
  • The meeting also agreed that the trust’s project board, which oversees the implementation of the new structure, will continue and will contain a union representative.

“These important protections were secured by all the recognised unions working closely together in the interests of all our members, schools and pupils,” the joint unions said.

“We would also like to acknowledge the constructive role that DRET representatives played in the ACAS talks, after they had initially tried to push through less favourable proposals.”

UNISON national secretary Jon Richards added: “These important guarantees for pupils, staff and schools were secured as a result of the joint campaigning by all the support, teaching and heads unions.

“This solidarity and joint working is going to be vital to protecting schools, pupils and staff in other employers.

“At the moment it is mainly support staff in the firing line, but our sister teaching unions know that if funding cuts continue, they will be next.

“All academies and multi-academy trusts should be in no doubt that if we see attempts to force through ill-judged proposals we will vigorously challenge them.”