Monthly Archives: May 2013

NUT and NASUWT Industrial Action

The NUT (National Union of Teachers) and NASUWT (National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers) have announced that they intend to have a programme of regional strike action as part of their campaign against government proposals on teacher’s pay[1]. This action is likely to affect 20,000 schools across England and Wales over the next few months.

This walk-out has resulted from a stand-off with the coalition governmentTeacher Teaching over rising pensions, contributions, increasing workload and the introduction of a system of performance-related pay.

The strikes will take place after GCSE and A-level exams and could continue into the autumn term, including a one-day national strike.

Members of the NUT and the NASUWT teaching union are already operating a joint work to rule over the government’s education and pension reforms, refusing to undertake 25 tasks including providing cover for colleagues and attending unscheduled management meetings.

The first set of action will take place on 27 June in the North West Region.

Announcements on further dates of action in the autumn term are expected.

UNISON Advice

UNISON respects the rights of other trade unions to take industrial action. UNISON members in schools have not been balloted for Strike action or action short of strike action and therefore they are advised to continue with their normal duties and responsibilities.  However, UNISON members should not take on any additional responsibilities being given to them directly as a result of the teachers’ industrial action.

School support staff should not be expected to provide cover for or take classes, where this would normally be done by teachers who are taking action. In particular, Higher Level Teaching Assistants or cover supervisors should only be taking classes or providing cover where they are contracted to do so, it is timetabled or part of their normal duties. Staff should not be moved from the duties they would normally have carried out in order to cover classes and frustrate the industrial action of colleagues. Members who are under pressure to cover should contact their UNISON rep, branch or region for further advice and support.

Members are reminded that due to industrial relations legislation only those employees who have been involved in a legal ballot are allowed to take industrial action.

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Local Government Service Group Executive Annual Report

With local government having faced the second year of the largest programme of cuts, wholesale privatisation and outsourcing of key services, major changes to employment legislation and threats to schools and education through the ideologically driven academy programme, 2012-13 was a difficult and challenging year.

 UNISON have now published the Local Government Service Group Executive Annual Report 2012/2013, titled Building a stronger union in local government and you can download and read it here.

 Branches can raise questions on the annual report which are submitted electronically and that may be put orally to the Service Group Executive at Conference. All questions will receive a written answer back to the Branch. If you have a question please let us knows and we will submit it.

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A 1% OFFER IS A 2% PAY CUT

Branch Urges you to Reject

If your pay rise is set by the National Joint Council (NJC) for Local Government Services then we will soon be consulting you about the NJC Employers’ side pay offer for 2013/14.

After many years of below-inflation pay rises; followed by 3 years of a total pay freeze; followed with severe pay restraint this year; and more already set out by this government for at least a further 3 years it is genuinely important that all our members take part in this consultation.

The offer is a derisory 1%. At the very top of the NJC pay spine it is onlyPeanut Pay Packet worth around £6.10 per week after deductions. As ‘compensation’ for the pay freeze that we have already endured this works out around £1.52 per week averaged over the 4 year period. For the 1 million NJC workers who earn less than £21,000 per year it is a measly £3.05 per week after deductions, or around just 76p per week averaged over the 4 year period. For the half million of those workers earning below £15,000 per year it is even less.

With inflation at 2.8% (CPI) and 3.3% (RPI) it is glaringly obvious this pay offer is actually a pay cut of around 2%. It is little wonder that our living standards have plummeted by over 16% since 2010 and that in real terms our pay is now worth more than 10% less than it was in 1996. And for those of us in pension schemes linked to earnings this continual drop in pay will hit us for the rest of our lives, unless we do something about it.

The UNISON NJC Committee, made up of UNISON members elected by their Regions or other bodies, agreed at its meeting on 7 May 2013 the NJC Employers’ below-inflation pay offer falls far below our aspirations and what we deserve. The Committee also believes that as things stand it is the best offer achievable by negotiation. Heather Wakefield, our National Secretary for Local Government, told The Municipal Journal the unions unanimously deplored the deal as falling way short of expectations. In a recent article for Public Finance Heather also said, “It seems that, without a fight, there will be little scope for sector-wide pay negotiation at all until after the 2015/16 pay round”. That shows how serious the situation has become – we are effectively talking about whether ‘national’ pay bargaining has any future because things have now got so bad.

A pay offer at a third of inflation would be a slap in the face at the best of times. But NJC workers are already the lowest paid sector and it is getting worse by the month. In a recent survey of local government members UNISON found that 53% were in debt, with 11% owing more than £20,000.

That is why UNISON is now consulting members on whether or not to accept the offer or reject and commit to a programme of sustained industrial action.

The Regional Service Group is made up of representatives from all our North West local government branches. At its meeting on 9 May we unanimously agreed to urge all our members to engage in the consultation and to reject this insulting offer.

In Scotland UNISON members have already decisively rejected a 1% offer and are moving towards an industrial action ballot. We now have the opportunity to do likewise in London, the rest of England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

This is not something we take lightly. We are members ourselves and we know the fears over job security and the pressures of restructures and extra work. We deal with this day in and day out. But accepting poverty pay levels – and two thirds of all NJC workers fall beneath this government’s own low pay threshold – is not saving any jobs. Nearly 400,000 have gone in local government since 2010 and London has been badly hit. The forecast is not getting sunnier anytime soon so having our living standards decimated is not a trade for job safety.

UNISON has produced and commissioned reams of research showing how bad the situation really is. As UNISON members we know that because we are living it. Nobody is disputing it. The NJC employers don’t dispute it. The government doesn’t dispute it. But currently they will not do anything about it. So as it stands we only have ourselves to turn to. If we do nothing, we can expect only more of the same – we cannot just wait and hope for a change of heart. It isn’t going to happen, unless we take the initiative to make it happen collectively.

We need to be prepared to campaign and take action for fair pay because we deserve fair recognition of our value and we deserve dignity. The choice is in our own hands.

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Proposed 1% Pay Incease: What does it mean?

In the 2013 budget Chancellor George Osborne called the proposed 1% pay increase for public workers a “rise cap” but now it been offered it is called a “pay rise”.

But what does 1% mean for UNISON members?

You can see a comparative pay table here showing how much salary would increase.

The NJC Employers’ offer is 1% on all spinal column points with effect from 1Woman with Coinc April 2013. Spinal Column Point 4 will be deleted with effect from 1 October 2013 as the National Minimum Wage increase (already set) would otherwise overtake SCP4 at that point.

Inflation figures for March 2013 are 2.8% (CPI) and 3.3% (RPI). The April figures are due for release on 21 May 2013. Over the past 12 months CPI has averaged 2.7% and RPI has averaged 3.2%.

At the very top of the NJC pay spine (SCP 49) the offer is only worth around £6.10 per week after deductions for full time working. As ‘compensation’ for the pay freeze that we have already endured this works out around £1.52 per week averaged over the 4 year period.

For the 1 million NJC workers – two thirds of the workforce – who earn less than £21,000 per year (equivalent to SCP 24 at full time working) it is worth around £3.05 per week after deductions, or around just 76p per week averaged over the 4 year period.

For the half million NJC workers – one third of the workforce – earning below £15,000 per year (equivalent to SCP 12 at full time working) it is even less, around £1.94 per week after deductions, or around 48p per week averaged over the 4 year period.

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Academic Question

Why are school choosing to become Academies?

Two of Kensington & Chelsea’s schools have come forward with plans to convert to academy status by September this year.

Both Park Walk Primary School and Holland Park Secondary School andSchoola Class currently going through the process of becoming academies. But why are schools choosing to become academies?

Since the introduction of the Academies Bill in May 2010 there has been huge political pressure for schools to covert. In fact the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove MP, is on record as wanting all schools to be academies by 2015.

Up to now nationally over half of secondary schools have chosen academy status, but only about 6% of primaries have done so.

Download the Anti Academies Alliance quick guide to academy schools here.

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UNISON Wins Legal Battle for Pay

[Anderson & Ors v London Fire & Emergency Planning Authority [2013] EWCA Civ 321]

 UNISON has won a 4 year battle for pay justice which could affect around 800 union members working for the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA). The union challenged the LFEPA’s decision not to honour the third year of an agreed pay deal that would have given fire and rescue staff a 2.5% pay rise in April 2009.

 The branch had agreed a threeFire Union year pay deal with the employer in July 2007. Increases for the first two years were set as 2.8% on 1st April 2007 and 2.75% in April 2008. In the tried year the employer agreed to pay 2.5% or the equivalent of the NJC (National Joint Council for Local Government Services) settlement plus 1%.

 When 2009 arrived the NJC settlement was extremely low and so the LFEPA decided it was not obliged to pay the pre-agree 2.5% and instead offered 1.825% which was based on the NJC settlement plus a little more than the 1% increase. This was rejected by UNISON members and they eventually paid a non-agreed 1.575% which was the amount to ensure the general pay increases were 1% above the NJC’s for 2007-09.

 The branch took the view that while not explicit; the commitment was to pay whichever was the higher of the two amounts. As a result they launched an unlawful deduction of wages claim on behalf of the members first to an Employment Tribunal (ET) and then to an Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT).

 The ET agreed with the employer’s submission that it was only an agreement to agree as there was no indication as to which of the alternatives for 2009 took primacy.

The EAT dismissed an appeal but for a different reason, which was that the employer had ‘fulfilled their contractual obligation by paying in accordance with one alternative’.

Therefore at this stage both attempts failed as the courts found in favour of the employer.

 UNISON persisted and appealed both decisions to the Court of Appeal last month (in April 2013). There the two previous decisions were overturned. Maurice Kay LJ, giving the lead judgment in this appeal, stated that since the purpose of the agreement was to settle a 3-year pay deal, it must been seen in light of an employment relationship. As a result the obvious aim and agreement was that employees should ‘receive an increase of 2.5% or NJC plus 1%, whichever was the greater’.

It was summed up as follows:

 “The idea that the unions would agree to a three-year deal in which the third year was covered by two alternatives, and that the employer should have unfettered right to choose between them strikes me as fanciful. I am quite sure that it would have struck the employers as equally unrealistic…such a construction flouts industrial common sense”.

 A full transcript of the appeal can be found here.

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UNISON Wins Six-Figure Compensation For Play Workers

Camden UNISON has secured a payout of around £106,000 for 74 former play service workers following a claim for compensation for unpaid annual leave, and is now looking into other hourly-paid casual staff.

Prior to the closure of Camden’s in-house play service, Camden UNISON raised claims on behalf of casual play workers and play workers who worked a substantial number of additional hours, who contended they had not received holiday pay.

After several months of negotiations, the Council agreed to pay compensation to these workers of up to £4250 each with the average payout being over £1300.

This is in addition to enhanced redundancy pay which UNISON achieved for 7 employees who worked casual or additional hours worth up to £4500, and back pay for unpaid antisocial hours enhancements worth up to £2000 each for 10 workers.

This shows the importance of being a member of a union, especially in these hard financial times.

UNISON believes that other hourly-paid or casual staff (often referred to as “sessional workers” ) may also have not received holiday pay.

Legally, all workers are entitled to paid annual leave, even if they are casual, sessional, hourly-paid, zero-hour contract or agency workers. This is clearly set out in the ACAS guidelines here.

If you are a casual, sessional or hourly-paid worker, make sure you are receiving what you are entitled to. Join UNISON today and join our campaign for fair treatment for casual workers!

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