On March 17th, Derby City Council made an enhanced offer to UNISON to secure a resolution to the long-running dispute with the Schools Support staff. The proposal was more radical than previous offers and addressed the issue at the heart of the dispute – the poorly implemented changes to the Terms and Conditions: changes which resulted in staff losing pay of up to 25%. This requirement was tabled by UNISON back in September 2015, was rejected by the Council, led to months of dispute and strikes, anxiety, and stress for Support Staff, Parents and children, and then, finally, someone listened, saw the error of their ways, and gave the Support Staff what they had originally asked for.
The documented proposal is still subject to much perceived ambiguity, and misinformation, despite it being clearly stated…. so what exactly was offered, and agreed.
1. 52 week flexible contract
“The Council will work with Head Teachers and Governing Bodies to introduce a flexible hours contract for all Schools based Support Staff so that all commence a 52 week flexible contract commencing on 1st September 2017”
(Terms of Agreement between Derby City Council and UNISON 17 March 2017)
This is not “discretionary”, or “best endeavours”, it WILL be implemented, by the employer, Derby City Council for all Schools Support staff. It is not for the Head Teachers to decide whether, or not, it is implemented.
The underlying principles are detailed in my September 2016 article “Proposal for a ‘Fair Deal’ for School Support Staff”. In a nutshell, this mean Schools Support Staff are paid for every hour that they work to do the job – there are no payments for holidays. This will re-instate many salaries back to the pre-dispute level.
Non-schools Council staff have a contract for 37hrs per week for 45/46 weeks per year ( + statutory/annual holidays) = ~1690 hrs per year. Due to term time, Schools Staff attend 39 weeks per annum with 32.5hrs contracted (directed) time ( for full-time staff). Many are required to work over and above these hours to do the contracted job ( meetings, planning, preparation, attending to children before/after the school day etc). When viewed on an annual basis, where Schools Staff work 1690 hrs over a 39 week period, then they will be paid 100% of the salary for the grade – equivalent hours to all other employees. It assumes that they work ~43hrs per week during term time – given this they will see their full salary re-instated under this new proposal.
Conversely, staff who only work their contracted hrs ( e.g. 32.5 hrs) during term time, will not benefit from this proposal – that is a, consistent, fair position.
The outcome is a matter of maths; the position for each person will depend on their contracted hours and additional necessary hours to complete the required job. This is the task of the next 12 weeks.
2. Lump Sum Payments
Schools Support staff have lost varying degrees of money over the period of the dispute. Some of those on strike have benefited from welfare payments where they have demonstrated true hardship.
There are 5 bands of payment ranging from £750 to £2750, depending on the extent of loss. This is not a 100% compensation, but is a gesture – this is available to all who have lost.
3. Special Educational Needs Teaching Assistants (SENTA)
For those SENTAs in the 11 Special and Enhanced Resource Schools, a full review will be conducted which:
“…will establish a restructure programme to thoroughly examine, redefine, and standardise the job descriptions and roles and in these named schools”
This will consider and update the education, and professional structure required to support the most vulnerable of children within the specialist schools. This is likely to be the most challenging aspect of the proposal to be delivered in 12 weeks.
This agreement is not a compromise for the Schools Support staff – in fact it is an impressive proposal and is the only realistic one that could have brought the dispute to an end.
The outcome ensures fairness with all Council staff – it is totally consistent with the Local Government “Green Book” / Single Status Agreement. Some staff will not benefit as much as others – this will be due to the number of hours that they work routinely above their contracted hours.
The dispute was never about Job Evaluation ( despite poor reporting) – consequently this proposal does not specifically resolve individual anomalies due to this.
The questions that Parents are now asking are – “Why has my child been subjected to months of strikes and loss of education for an agreement which could have been made 18 months ago”.
Who needs to be held accountable – Cllr Ranjit Banwait , and David Cox ( HR – responsible for implementation) – they should explain publicly why they aggravated the negotiations , why they claimed that UNISON’s proposals were illegal and unaffordable…when clearly that was not true! What has changed which allowed this offer to be made?
Perhaps it needs a full public enquiry!?
Categories: Teaching Assistant Dispute