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From The Socialist newspaper, 22 January 2005

Brighton teaching assistants

More council delaying tactics

ON 10 January, UNISON and GMB, the unions representing teaching assistants in Brighton, once more entered into negotiations with Brighton and Hove council.

Sean Figg, Brighton and Hove Socialist Party

By 17 January, talks brokered by ACAS had broken down and a further one-day strike called for 26 January.

This dispute started when the council tried to cut the number of weeks teaching and general assistants are paid per year, from between 49 and 52 weeks to 44. This cut was made when the council agreed to a new pay structure and realised that it would have to pay the majority better wages.

These workers took three days of strike action last year. The unions then proposed 'binding arbitration' and called off a fourth strike planned for 6 January.

At a meeting of over 100 workers, 100% voted in favour of escalating industrial action to walkouts of up to five-days in selected schools, a work-to-rule, and a strike on 20 January if the council did not accept the proposal to go to binding arbitration.

The council did not agree to binding arbitration but they did agree to negotiate the terms of reference for arbitration. The unions declared this as a positive step, and suspended the action.

On 13 January, ACAS (the usually pro-boss arbitration service) arrived in Brighton.

But before these negotiations began, the council made clear that it would not enter binding arbitration on certain issues in the dispute. Council officers said that they: "Could not afford to sign a blank cheque for a huge pay bill if the ruling went against them".

But they can afford to pay council chief executive Alan McCarthy 145,000 a year, and could give his predecessor David Panter 5,000 per year to spend on 'corporate entertainment'!

The council has attempted to delay and confuse the dispute in an attempt to break the determination of the teaching and general assistants. They want to turn public opinion against the dispute, which the public has so far overwhelmingly supported.

This New Labour council does not deserve any more chances. Well-supported strike action is the only way they will be forced into serious negotiations.

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In The Socialist 22 January 2005:

Iraq: end the war and occupation

Vote Bannister

"Defend our pensions" UNISON members insist

Tories on the rocks

More council delaying tactics

No waste plant here!

Sri Lanka after the tsunami

Aceh: Indonesian military sabotage relief work

Tsunami early warning - the failure of capitalism

'Orange Revolution' in Ukraine - an eyewitness account

World Social Forum - the challenge for 2005

Russia 1905: When workers gained a glimpse of power


 

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