William Eichler 18 September 2017

Agreement ending teaching assistant pay dispute in Derby collapses

An agreement aimed at ending a long-running pay dispute between teaching assistants and Derby council has fallen through raising the threat of further strikes.

Teaching assistants in Derby voted to end a ten-month campaign of strike action over pay and working time last April — a move welcomed by Derby City Council.

However, last Thursday the agreement fell apart with Unison accusing the council of refusing ‘to make any offer on any area of the dispute.’

Changes brought in by the council in June 2016 meant staff lost up to £6,000 a year as their contracts were reduced from 52 to 44.5 weeks a year, while weekly hours were also increased from 32.5 to 37 with no extra pay.

The aim of the pay reevaluation was to equalise pay across the council workforce in order to prevent any potentially costly future equal pay claims.

The settlement that was reached last March and agreed by the union in April involves compensation payments to some of the worst-hit workers from a £2m fund and a new flexible 52-week contract for all support staff.

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis welcomed this at the time saying: 'School support staff are relieved this dispute is behind them. Now they can concentrate on the great work they do helping children in the city's schools.’

However, the union now says the pay reevaluation will lead to a loss of 4.5 hours per week which will cost staff 12% of their wages and a loss of 8 working weeks per year which cost staff 13% of their wages.

They also insist the councils new approach to pay will result in the loss of a £1,200 per year special classroom allowance.

Unison’s Derby branch insists the deal agreed upon last April ‘has not resolved any of these issues.’

‘This council’s leadership lurches from one crisis of its own making to the next. You just have to ask if they are up to the job at all,’ said Andy Belfield, Unison’s regional head of local government.

‘It is now clear that yet again the people of Derby face problems caused by the councils leaders.’

Responding to the union’s decision, Cllr Baggy Shanker, cabinet member for finance and governance at the council, said: ‘It’s really disappointing that we’re in this situation once again with Unison. Back in March we signed an agreement with Unison.

‘We ended the dispute with the signing of that agreement. And on Unison’s website they said the dispute had ended.’

‘There’s no need for more strikes. There’s no need for this dispute,’ Cllr Shanker added.

‘It has ended. We have an agreement that ends the dispute. So i urge unison to come back and talk to me and the council and lets try and end this once and for all.’

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