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Staff at Chaddlewood Primary ran an excellent picket outside the school gates this morning and received loads of support from teachers and parents. Similar scenes could be seen at Woodford and Borringdon Primaries and some staff also took action at St Maurice and Glen Park schools. Negotiations have been ongoing but Plym still refuses to come back into the NJC pay fold and so members rejected their improved last minute offer.

A member of staff said: “I have worked as a teaching assistant here for many years, and I really love my job – it means the world to me to be able to support our children to learn and develop into well-rounded individuals.  I really did not want to go on strike, but felt I had no choice.  We are skilled workers, doing a professional job, yet we feel we’ve been treated like second class citizens by our employer.  Why shouldn’t we be given our nationally agreed pay award, just as teachers have been, and support staff in the vast majority of other schools across Plymouth and nationally?  We already give over and above what we are paid to do – all we are asking is to be valued like every other member of staff!”

Plymouth in UNISON Branch Secretary, Kevin Treweeks, said: “School support staff have suffered real terms pay cuts of over 21% on average since 2010, but do hugely important jobs that keep our schools running: helping children’s learning in the classroom, providing special educational needs support, staffing reception and communicating with parents, cleaning and maintaining the school and providing children with nutritious meals.

The Trust have awarded their senior employees significant increases over the past two years and the top five earners now share an annual income of over £325,000. The pay award we’re asking for would cost the employer less than £120,000 to implement to April 2020. We’re calling on Plymouth Academy Trust to pay up now.”

Staff will meet again next week and are hopeful they can spread the action to involve even more staff if forced to take action again next Thursday.

In the meantime; Sign and share this petition in support of striking support staff http://chng.it/NNGnrTKLWr

Reports in the press

https://www.plymouthherald.co.uk/news/plymouth-news/staff-five-plymouth-schools-strike-3018868

https://www.plymouthherald.co.uk/news/schools-trust-couldnt-afford-give-3025344

Plym Academy Trust Pay Dispute Summary

UNISON and GMB support staff in the Plym Multi academy Trust will be taking strike action on 9th and 17th July to achieve pay justice and an equivalent wage to 90% of other staff doing similar jobs throughout the country. Negotiations are ongoing in the hope that this can be avoided and that the employer will come back to the NJC fold. We will update members as to their progress at a meeting on Thursday 4th July at the Rees Youth centre on Mudgeway.

The problem arose when Plym MAT paid a 1% rise in April 2018 but did not tell UNISON they were breaking away from national pay bargaining (should have been at least 2%) and many staff seemed to be unaware of what was happening.
A further 1.5% was added in November 2018  but not backdated to April 2018 so not in reality 2.5% for the year;
They have now offered another 2.5% for this year but again not to be paid until September 2019 and only in response to staff rejecting an earlier pay offer and moving to ballot.
The issue of resetting the pay bandings after nearly 10 years of austerity and pay freezes, which is of course the most important part of the deal, is given no mention. The NJC agreed rates will ensure the very lowest paid are on a bottom rate of £9 per hour from 1 April 2019, and all will receive at least 4% over the period April 2018- April 2020, with higher increases for the lowest paid of which many school staff are some of. This means all staff will be shortchanged over the course of the deal but some more than others.
The offer to return to the NJC position in 2020 has not been made directly (only in the press) and as they will not exist as an employer in 2020 Plym can’t make such an offer or commitment.  WEST who are absorbing them in September haven’t either, and in fact when asked if they would move staff to the NJC 2018/19 Pay Award after transfer they indicated they would not!

Plym Academy Trust issued a letter to parents and a statement to the press on 26 June, in which they alleged that the trade unions had been using misleading figures in our communications with staff.  UNISON would like to make clear that this is not the case, and we have only ever used information provided to us by the Academy, or information that is publicly available.

UNISON has never claimed that support staff were only offered a 1% pay rise for the 2018-19 period (as suggested in the Herald).  We consulted our members, and balloted them on the basis that the Trust had failed to match the nationally agreed pay increase.  In our consultation we circulated the Trust’s own letter to staff detailing their proposed offer, so that members were in possession of the full facts.

We recognise and acknowledge the financial strain that all state funded schools have been placed under because of the government’s failure to fund education properly.  UNISON is working with all school staff trade unions to campaign and tackle this at a national level – and we invite Plym Academy Trust to join us in this campaign.

School support staff have suffered real terms pay cuts of over 21% on average since 2010, but do hugely important jobs that keep our schools running: helping children’s learning in the classroom, providing special educational needs support, staffing reception and communicating with parents, cleaning and maintaining the school and providing children with nutritious meals.

The vast majority (around 90%) of schools, including academies, have paid support staff the nationally agreed rate (negotiated at the National Joint Council, NJC).  So Plym Academy Trust is amongst only a very small number of schools who have refused to pay their staff this modest uplift, which will help ensure they are paid fairly.  Plym Academy have been able to afford to pay some of their most senior employees handsome increases over the last 2 years – why can’t they afford the same respect and treatment to their lowest paid staff?

School support staff in Plym  Academy Trust are only asking is to be valued, and to be paid the same as colleagues doing the same job in other schools in Plymouth.