Following discussions between Derby City Council (DCC) and UNISON on Friday 9th September ( which proved to be unsatisfactory) and in an attempt to head off the Strike action planned for next Wednesday, Paul Robinson (Chief Exec) wrote to all TAs/ School Support staff ( posted at the bottom of the article).
The letter, below, was written by one of the frustrated support staff, and sent to Mr Robinson…..the sentiment is supported by many of those affected by the pay cuts. It contains some critical points about how support staff have a paramount concern for the welfare of the children, despite the need to fight against 25% pay cuts, and the wish to show solidarity, and strike….a moral conflict! It also highlights how they have been poorly treated by DCC during the whole process over the last year.
It also provides a valuable insight into some realities behind this dispute which might not be evident to all….
But to re-iterate, the TAs / School Support staff just want their pay retained…not a pay increase. They did not expect that an Equal Pay Review would result in an average 25% Pay cut!
Date: 10 September 2016
Dear Mr Paul Robinson
Response to letter dated 9 September 2016 ( see below)
Thank you so much for your letter dated 9 September 2016; it has restored my faith in DCC, that you can indeed be very efficient when you choose to.
However, I take offence at a number of comments in your letter.
1. As one of the “small number of your colleagues” who actually did take industrial action, I find the general tone of your letter extremely patronising. It also confirms just how out of touch you are with the real facts as regards who was actually out on strike.
My colleagues and I agonised over whether to strike or not as we were very aware of the huge impact it would have on the pupils we support, especially as many were busy writing their GCSE exams at the time. We were so concerned about this that I approached Unison and obtained special consideration for some of my colleagues to be exempt from striking on specific days, especially so that they could support pupils during the exams. Are you even aware that many very vulnerable pupils would not have achieved the grades they did this year without the support of TAs during their exams? One pupil we supported even managed to achieve the grades needed to attend 6th Form and another exceeded his targets!
Have you even considered that this may be why a number of staff did not strike: not because they are happy with their pay cuts or indifferent (a utterly ridiculous thought as who would happily accept such a drastic cut in pay with no protection whatsoever) BUT because they care so desperately for the pupils they support and always put the pupils’ needs before their own?
Therefore, please do not suggest that just because someone did not strike they do not fully support Unison in the actions they are taking. If we applied your attitude as expressed in your letter to low voter figures to DCC elections, then many DCC Councillors should not be part of DCC!
2. As mentioned above I find the general tone of your letter extremely patronising. This is merely reiterating the general attitude of DCC to the entire Equal Pay Review. Mr David Cox in particularly has come across as rude and obnoxious on many occasion: making very rude and sarcastic comments to staff asking very reasonable questions, rolling his eyes, sneering, etc. His body language has repeatedly expressed his disinterest in dealing with any queries regarding the EQR.
The way Support Staff have been dealt with by DCC does cause us to wonder if DCC consider us entirely dispensable and therefore if we leave it is simple easing a financial burden for DCC. Does anyone in DCC actually have any idea what School Support Staff actually do on a day-to-day basis, just how crucial we are as regards child safeguarding? The very low grading of most School Support Staff roles seems to suggest otherwise.
All of us choose to work in schools because we care passionately about children but the way DCC have treated us, and continue to treat us, has left most of us feeling worthless.
3. As mentioned at the beginning of the letter I am astounded that DCC can be highly efficient when it chooses to be. I make this comment because I have recently been appointed to a new, unique role in school. I therefore had to write my own JIQ as no one knows what I actually do. This came back with a number of inaccuracies resulting in a grading that I felt did not reflect the responsibilities this role carries. Although I was told I had a right to appeal, no information was sent to me to facilitate this process. I have had to personally chase up the matter constantly. My appeal was submitted on 4 July: I received acknowledgment of receipt but have heard nothing since. Does it really take 10 weeks to consider an appeal? Or is it true that no one works in DCC over the August holidays? Are DCC council staff also on reduced week contracts just like School Support Staff? Maybe more transparency would be helpful for everyone to understand why DCC on the whole are very slow to respond to anything?
Mr Robinson, I would like to add in closing that I did not find you letter at all helpful; rather, it has so angered me that I felt compelled to write this letter.
As you hold public office, and are there to actually serve the public, I would suggest that you find out the true facts for yourself before writing letters that do not reflect the true picture.
Currently the attitude that DCC is projecting is that you do not care at all about the people of Derby and are hell bent on doing whatever you please to gratify your own egos. To call yourselves a Labour Council who cares for the people is an utter disgrace.