Work advice wanted (school)

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RedEd's picture
RedEd
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May 7 2011 16:34
Work advice wanted (school)

Someone I know works at a school that is being turned into an academy. A restructuring is being implemented in which, despite there being lots of behavioural issues and the Head of Year roles being really important, and Heads of Faculty already being overstretched, the two roles are being merged with a cut in pay. Staff are thus being pitted against each other to try to keep their jobs, and effectively facing increased workloads and cuts to pay, or demotion. The union reps are a bit useless, apparently, and the workplace is not overly unionised. But the heads of faculty got together and wrote a letter requesting a group meeting with the head to discuss their concerns by the end of May. The meeting is very soon, and they've not got much time to prepare, this seems to have been a deliberate tactic.

The workplace is divided between those who are actively against them, those who don't really care, and those who are quite sycophantic and embracing this new more private sector model of organising the school. Also, people are barely managing their workloads which makes it harder to think about organising. Many of the heads of faculty and heads of year are close to retirement and thus feel quite vulnerable. The two unions involved are NUT and NASUWT.

Does anyone have any knowledge of the employment law issues involved or any advice on how they can take action to protect their pay and conditions?

Steven.'s picture
Steven.
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May 7 2011 16:56

To be honest, that's a bit too broad a question.

There will be loads of different bits of law involved in different areas. You seem to be saying that there are a few different issues going on - a restructuring, and a move to academy status.

If you could give more detail on the changes, we could probably give more specific advice.

It looks like you are just talking about teaching staff, but presumably support staff (and probably their union, most likely Unison but maybe some GMB) are going to be affected as well.

You mention job cuts, but also pay cuts or demotion. I can't really see how teachers could be getting their pay cut unless there is some sort of retention payment being cut, or unless some teachers move grades in the restructuring.

In general, if staff are very divided, between different unions and those not in unions, and people won't stick together then your friend will be very limited in what they can do.

However, school staff potentially have a lot of industrial power (as if they strike, parents have to miss work to look after their kids) so there is definitely potential to fight this and win - in many areas, for example there are effective no compulsory redundancy agreements for teachers. If people want to take strike action as well, the NUT will often pay strikers' for wages for the duration of the dispute.

The best thing for your friend to do would be to try to get a meeting for all staff, in all unions and those not in the union, including support staff and try to get people talking about resisting it collectively.

If a dispute gets going, they should try to enlist the support of pupils, parents, possibly governors and the community as a whole.

Where is the school? Depending on where it is there may also be outside groups which can help, like Solfed, AF or some local radical group.

The Anti-Academies Alliance also has loads of information on campaigning against academy status, you should check out their website:
http://www.antiacademies.org.uk/

Caiman del Barrio
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May 7 2011 17:49

What do the parents feel about it becoming an academy? There's been quite a good campaign in Deptford against one led by a number of parents. Attacks on staff working conditions has always been one of the central planks of their arguments: http://sayingno.org/cms/academies/tidemill-primary-school/

jef costello's picture
jef costello
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May 7 2011 18:27

You could try sending a pm to choccy.

In terms of pay cuts the losses would be from losing Head of Year/Head of faculty positions. I don't see how those two positions can be realistically merged though, is that definitely happpening?

In terms of working conditions then your friend needs to speak to the union about legal aspects to start with (depending on the rep they might be helpful or not) As Steven. said there are lots of bits about employment law. In general they can't simply demote someone, iirc they have to offer redundancy/retirement so the person can 'choose' a demotion, if the demotion is accepted then often there are periods where they must receive their previous salary and there are often rules about subsequent job openings at that level being given to demoted people.

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Joseph Kay
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May 8 2011 08:49

Bit of a plug, but SolFed's running workplace organiser trainings, and some of the people involved in the training are working and organising in schools, so it's probably worth your friend dropping them an email to discuss things. The thrust of the training is how to build up independent organisation, across any existing unions and including non-union staff.

Chilli Sauce's picture
Chilli Sauce
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May 8 2011 11:25

The other thing I'd say is, of course, Steven's right what you want is a meeting across staff to discuss a response. However, it sounds like in your friend's situation may be a bit tough to get a big turnout. Don't let that discourage. Even if s/he can only get 3 of you out to the meeting (how employees does the school have, btw), let that be the starting point.

In terms of direct actions, how big is the groups you said were "actively" opposing this? Is there anyway they might be able to begin putting pressure? Refusing voluntary duties (lunch duties, for example), what about trying to raise a collective grievance about job descriptions (since it seems a lot of extra responsibility seems to be going around), or beginning to risk accessing the fuck out of everything because of the increased workloads? How about symbolic actions, boycotting an end-of-year party, for example.

Also, if you don't mind me asking (feel free to PM), where is this school? As JK alluded to, SF has three training planned between now and summer, so perhaps we could get your friend to one of them.

RedEd's picture
RedEd
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May 8 2011 17:55

Thanks for all the responses guys. I'm afraid my friend has asked me not to put any details anywhere, so there's not much more that I can say. And unfortunately she's not the sort to want anarchists (other than this anarchist!) involved. I'll send her a link to this thread and she can ask for more specifics if she wants them. Basically her and her colleagues are trying to organise across all teaching grades, but not all grades, to oppose the job role and pay changes. I'll advise her to take on board all the suggestions about broadening this out, but moral being what it is, I don't know what the take up will be. It's one of those situations people are stuck between a shit union(s) and a lack of confidence in their own abilities. Still, cheers for the input.