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Teaching Assistants strike in a Hackney school for agreed pay level
Respect needed - Pay the grade now
Fifty Unison teaching assistant staff at Horizon and Downsview special needs schools in Hackney (London) were on strike on Tuesday 26 March to protest at the failure of management to implement a Single Status agreement worth £2,000 a year to these low paid workers.
The staff are all part-time and term time only so are on between £15,000 and £17,000 a year. The 30-plus on the occasionally noisy picket line chanted: "What do we want, Scale 5; When do we want it, Now".
As one of the strikers commented: "Everything's going up, food, travel, child care, energy bills. Inflation is at 3.2% and our wages are not going up".
The Job Description and the Evaluation were done jointly by management and the trade unions and were signed off as scale 5, yet now, a year later this has still not been implemented.
This strike is seen by the workers as a "last resort". "We are100% committed to supporting the children. This is the only school in Hackney not to have implemented the agreement".
Staff report that when they refused to accept being paid on scale 4 they were threatened with job cuts and redundancies by management and Human Resources and one HR staff member claimed their job was not 'challenging'.
Duty of care
"Being head-butted, scratched, bruised, spat at, is a normal part of the job, that's what management say.
"We are expected to stay in school even when injured. We do understand the nature of the job and the inherent risks, and these need to be included in our job descriptions.
"What is not acceptable though is the failure of management to provide a 'duty of care'. When we are injured they never call an ambulance, we have to call and pay for a cab ourselves.
We are never allowed to accompany that member of staff even though they might have been traumatised by the incident. The duty of care to staff is zero".
No such worries for the Executive Principal who is reported to be on £100,000 a year. Staff on the picket line commented that they rarely see her in the school and that she appears to have an aversion to dealing with parents' problems and staff issues, and generally keeps away from the children.
There are three other senior managers, two of whom are consultants, all reported to be earning at least four to five times the salary of the teaching assistants.
At the same time a massive investment into the school buildings is taking place as part of the 'Building schools for the Future Programme'.
This is to be welcomed, but for a fraction of the money spent on this and the senior managers' salaries this dispute could be settled. If not, expect more strikes next term.
Brian Debus, Hackney Unison member
This article is based on interviews with a number of staff at the school and Unison branch secretary Matthew Waterfall.
Press release from Hackney Unison, 27.3.13
Strike solid at Horizon and Downsview special schools.
50 staff took industrial action on Tuesday 26th March over pay at Downsview and Horizon special schools in Prince George Road.
The Teaching Assistants are in dispute with their employer over the refusal of the management team to implement the agreed grade for the role.
The grade had been agreed jointly between the trade unions and management at the Learning Trust but the schools have refused to pay staff the £2,000 upgrade, instead imposing a lower grade.
The two schools provide education to children with the highest level of special educational need in Hackney and operate from a single site in Stoke Newington.
The site was open today, however many parents were told to keep their children at home. 100% of Unison members affected by the pay dispute were on strike.
The picket line was supported by representatives from the NUT and UCU unions who came to show their solidarity with the striking teaching assistants.
Hackney Unison branch secretary, Matthew Waterfall, said:
'The strike has been rock solid with every one of our members refusing to cross the picket line. This demonstrates the strength of feeling amongst the workforce.
The school management teach our children about fairness and equality but then refuse to pay teaching assistants a fair wage for the work they do. We will take further action to secure the right rate of pay for our members.'
Teaching assistants are part time and paid for term time working only so the increase in grade will make a significant difference to them all.
The schools say they cannot afford to pay the staff the correct rate of pay but have recently recruited extra staff and are spending money on consultants.
The dispute follows the implementation of a national agreement known as single status which standardised the pay and conditions of all school support staff in Hackney.
The agreement has been implemented in full in every other Hackney school with Downsview and Horizon being the only schools to refuse to honour their part of the bargain.
Further Information and enquiries:
Matthew Waterfall 07557 038545
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 27 March 2013 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.