Ealing workers fight pay cuts

IN EALING, west London, 175 special educational need coach escorts, 90% of whom are women, were handed a letter recently telling them that their hours were to be recalculated. Management says this will reflect the real hours they work.

This means a cut in pay, with most people losing at least one week’s pay a month. These low-paid workers were extremely angry. At a meeting called by management, people asked the director what it was she actually did and when she was going to take a pay cut?

Brian Blake, Socialist Party member and convenor for children and adult services, who represents the escorts, told the meeting that this was an absolute disgrace and a slap in the face for all the hard work the escorts do dealing with children with special needs. He challenged the management to justify the changes.

All management offered was that their job titles would be changed to passenger assistants. This was met with cries of: “Ooh thank you.”

The escorts’ hours are made up of the journey on the coach from when they pick up the first child to when they drop the last child at school and in reverse in the afternoon. They also include the time it takes them to get home from the school and to return to the school in the afternoon. If you live out of borough you were only paid to the borough boundary.

What Ealing management has done is recalculate and reduce the coach journey time and the journeys to and from home. But the coach journeys are not direct but worked out so as to pick up children by the shortest route possible. They also have not taken into account delays due to children getting ready and being taken into schools and on the return journey children being collected from classrooms.

On the journeys home, they have not looked at the actual journeys, where some people have to take two buses, but the most direct route – in some cases this amounts to a 50% cut in journey time. Many escorts in the past have worked over their hours without claiming time as an act of goodwill. This will come to an end.

When overtime has been claimed in the past it has always been blocked. UNISON has been trying to get this matter sorted out for three years but there has been a lack of management action. Now they have moved to impose their cuts by 1 July without any proper negotiations.

UNISON called two meetings of members at which a vote was taken for a ballot for strike action. This was carried unanimously by both meetings and unanimously supported by the branch officers and branch committee. The matter will now be referred to the London Region for a ballot. These workers are angry and determined to fight and if management do not back off they will get a battle.