More council delaying tactics

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

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

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

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.