Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/377/4243
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.
- Lobby the next full council meeting on Thursday 20 January at 3pm, Hove town hall, Norton Road, Hove.
In The Socialist 22 January 2005: