Wage cuts for low-paid school staff prompt strike action

According to Birmingham Mail, a Staffordshire academy trust is butting heads with staff as employees complain of unfair wage cuts to already low-paid staff

Staff at St Chad’s Academies Trust are preparing for strike action, following 20% salary cuts for some of the lowest-paid staff.

St Chad’s has been embroiled in a consultation since last October, when proposals to cut terms and conditions for support staff working in the trust’s nine schools were announced.

The trust cited a potential deficit in some of the schools and differences in pay for teaching assistants as justification for this action.

To make matters worse, the union’s senior organiser, Stuart Richards, said his members were told they would be fired unless they agreed to the changes.

However, the GMB found that the trust has plenty of money, and has been distributing it unfairly.

Cash assets for the trust had increased by over £1m in the last financial year to over £3.5m, with a handful of staff paid between £60,000 and £80,000 during this time. No cost-cutting proposals were made for these people.

Richards said: “GMB submitted a response as part of the consultation, but the document wasn’t even shared with any of the staffing committees making the decision.

“Based on this, there was no indication the trust was willing to even consider any other options.

“As a result, GMB and our Unison colleagues went into dispute with the trust. The trust agreed to meet with both unions, but these talks have now broken down.

“We asked for a pause in the proposals to enable us to have discussions, but this was refused. We asked the trust to agree to ACAS mediation. This was refused. And we put forward a sensible alternative proposal. This was rejected.

“We have tried to work with the trust to find a way forward that mitigates this drastic cut in pay for some of the lowest paid workers.

“Unfortunately, there is no indication that the trust will consider changing their course.

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“They’ve told our members that, if they don’t agree to these changes, they will be dismissed.

“There is no way our members will accept massive pay cuts while academy fat cats carry on getting the cream

“GMB is committed to fighting these cuts and will meet with members later this week to finalise the next steps.”

A spokesperson for St Chad’s Academies Trust, said: “Our first priority is always to ensure the best possible education of children which means that academies must be run in a financially sustainable way.

They added: “This is a sensitive situation and we have worked hard with academies at a local level to minimise the effect on the staff involved, to ensure they have the best possible equal pay and conditions.

“Each academy has explored how they can mitigate the loss to affected staff, including offering additional hours and extra weeks worked when the academy is closed where this is financially viable and sustainable. Union advice to members was for members not to agree to this offer.”

“Meetings have been held with staff, and their unions, and we have not refused ACAS mediation.”

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