“UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis left the TUC conference in Brighton to join the teaching assistants on Parliament Square.
He told them that all of UNISON’s 1.3 million members were behind them and said “these cuts are happening because of the cruel squeeze on finances from Westminster, as the government continues its austerity fuelled war on public services.”
He also said that how they have been treated by their council is a disgrace.” https://www.unison.org.uk/news/article/2016/09/derby-lobby/
The above report was addressed to the striking Derby Teaching assistants who came down to the House of Commons to highlight the brutal impact of the 25% pay cut by their employer Derby City Council.
In Durham Teaching Assistants are facing a 23% pay cut and whilst they are currently being balloted on an offer, the grassroots feedback is that it will be rejected.
The two disputes Derby & Durham have raised the profile of a wider campaign that has been waiting to be launched for almost a decade.
Any union rep that has represented school staff is all too well aware of the dedication hard work and unpaid hours that our members deliver to provide high quality education for children. In particular our members have played a critical role in delivering the inclusion agenda in schools which is something we should all be proud of.
The imposition of Term Time Pay (TTP) is something every union branch that has members working in schools is aware of and until now perhaps wondered how the union movement was going to mobilise against policy that openly discriminates against low paid female workers.
For those unfamiliar with TTP, it is not applicable to Teachers. Teachers are covered by a national agreement and whilst they do work term time they are paid a full time employees.
However, in the case of the rest of staff working in schools they are not treated a full time employees hence TTP.
The Durham & Derby disputes expose the fact that there were in the past staff working in schools (not teachers) who were treated as full time employees and paid like teachers. Unfortunately over the last decade this employment (known as 52 weeks) has been stopped across a number of local authorities. In some places they have held on, but eventually it has been imposed.
In Derby and Durham the workforce are clearly not prepared to lose 25% without a fight.
I am originally from the Easington Colliery and took an interest when I heard about the 23% pay cut because I was negotiating something similar here in Tory Barnet. I have had to come up with a negotiating strategy with my local reps to address the change to TTP, so I know it is difficult but they are options. However, even though we have managed to avoid the big 23/25% cuts we still have to come up with a plan to deal with a 3.4% cut in April 2018. Whilst that is a long way a way, we are already formulating plan with our members.
But to me this is just tinkering and avoid the “elephant in the room” and provoked in me this question. What can we do for Derby and Durham Workers?
First we can all send messages of support and donations to help them both. I can tell you that it does help morale when you are given messages of support from other workers.
We can support their online campaigns on Face Book and Twitter
No comparison with other council workers.
These are all good solidarity actions but in my view there is only one way we are going to end this discriminatory and punitive policy and that is by coordinating a national dispute.
We have all the facts now.
We know it penalises and devalues female workers and it is discriminatory.
As a union that opposes all forms of discrimination this is a fight we must launch and launch now.
Our campaign should be that all staff working in a school should be treated equally with teachers as full time employees, if that means their terms and conditions are negotiated with the teachers then so be it.
Positive action to end this discrimination can no longer be delayed.
In my view we can’t leave branches and members to fight isolated, we need to step up and take on this challenge on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of low paid female workers who make up the bulk of our membership.
“Submit the claim, give notice and then prepare to ballot”.
I guarantee a ballot on all school staff to be treated as full time employees will generate a high turnout, possibly increase membership and union activity in schools.
In June this year at UNISON conference I read this headline with interest
“UNISON is to campaign for school workers across the UK to be employed during every week of the year, local government delegates in Brighton declared this afternoon.”
At last I thought we are going to mobilise our campaign for our members in schools.
In July at the Durham Miners Gala Jeremy Corbyn gave an electrifying speech and took the opportunity in his speech to issue a message of solidarity for the Durham Teaching Assistants. “Get it sorted!” listen here https://youtu.be/wd8yZLcIFCs
But it got better.
In August this year Jeremy issued a much more substantial message
“The government must fund teaching assistants every week of the year”
So now we have Jeremy Corbyn publicly stating that he backs UNISON campaign to end imposition of Term Time Pay and UNISON conference pledging to campaign to end Term Time Pay.
So yes, I agree with Dave when he said to the Derby TAs “all of UNISON’s 1.3 million members were behind them” so in my book that sounds like the start of a plan and I for one want to do everything I can to support all school support staff and be part of a joint union team that issues a claim to end Term Time Pay and calls all of our branches to mobilise our members for action.
As a warm up to the wider campaign I am asking if you could sign this petition and then share it widely.
Let’s start agitating and organising I am sick of hearing about discrimination of female workers lets work to end it. Time for talking is over the Time for action is now.