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ECSG updates from the frontline: July 2019

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ECSG updates from the frontline: July 2019

Prospect negotiators for the education and children's services group give their updates from the last month.



Claire Dent – Negotiations executive for London and the South East

Chris Manning – Negotiations executive for the Midlands, South and Wales

Stuart Anderson – Negotiations Executive for Scotland, North and North west

Angela Moffatt – Negotiations Officer for Northern Ireland

Claire Dent

Early years

Ofsted reported in June that 97% of nurseries are now judged to be good or outstanding at their last inspection, an increase of 11% . This is testament to the dedication, hard work and passion of the professionals working in early years education.

Prospect is keen to promote union membership within this dedicated group so we can continue to campaign for decent wages and recognition of their professional standing.  

Kent

Details have emerged that Kent County Council has been unable to retrieve £263million of pension money invested via a fund manager after his company suspended trading.

The move by Neil Woodford, of Woodford Investment Management, came after KCC was the latest in a line of investors preparing to pull its cash.

A spokesman for KCC said, “At this stage there is no loss to the pension fund, and whatever the outcome there will be no impact on the council’s cash reserves or service provision.

I have been invited by KCC to speak at their School Improvement staff quarterly meeting. Prospect wrote to all Local Authorities highlighting the work we undertake within the Soulbury committee negotiations.

Personal cases

Issues that have required my support during this period include a senior SI professional who is in dispute with her Local Authority as they are failing to pay her the current Soulbury pay scale despite her contract clearly stating that she was employed on a Soulbury grade. 

I have as usual been dealing with various cases of harassment and bullying, both against members from staff they manage and also members who feel like they are being bullied. There is no easy solutions to these problems as grievance procedures seldom bring a satisfactory solution for all parties. It is so important to keep a log of instances if you believe you are being bullied and seek advice early.

Membership

Although the number of members who remain on Soulbury contracts have declined as employers have moved staff over to locally negotiated pay agreements the case above demonstrates the importance of Prospect’s involvement in this national committee structure.

The Soulbury Report advises the principles set out in the framework are equally relevant to all professionals undertaking School Improvement roles within the scope of the Soulbury Committee national agreement, whether or not they are paid under the terms of that agreement and whether they are employed by local authorities or other bodies.

Belonging to Prospect ensures that we have the expertise to challenge decisions involving professional roles.

Recruitment

I have taken the opportunity recently to focus on recruiting both new members and looking at how Prospect can encourage current members to become more involved.

Membership is the lifeblood of the organisation and helps each and every member by ensuring our voice is heard and we remain relevant within the education profession.  I know there are many demands on your time but by supporting the union just by simply speaking to your colleagues about the benefits of union membership could make a huge difference to the influence Prospect can have in your workplace.

Chris Manning

Since Easter, personal cases across the ECS Group have been many and varied. I have supported members with matters including grievance, performance management, restructure/redundancy, pay, workload, complaint investigation, stress, absence management, contract and pensions issues.

As well as the advice and representation that I provide, many members also take advantage of the advice provided by Prospect’s legal, pensions and research teams. Prospect members can be reassured by the fact that they have a wealth of knowledge and experience available to them through the various support teams.

Your local Rep and your full-time officer can’t be expected to know everything and it is comforting to know that there are teams of experts on hand who can help us to work towards the solution you require.

I have been involved in consultations with two Local Authorities over recent weeks.

  • Northamptonshire are going through a major restructure following the Local Government Review. The current eight Northamptonshire councils will be reformed into two new Unitary Councils (North Northamptonshire and West Northamptonshire) and a Children’s Trust will be created, all with a ‘Vesting Day’ of 01 April 2021.
  • In the other consultation there is a restructure affecting the Local Authority’s School Improvement team which will end up with two positions being lost to redundancy.

In another Local Authority, they are proposing changes to the SEN Service which will involve the deletion of the four most senior positions in the team.

However, the four affected posts are all Soulbury staff and the proposed new structure will deliberately have no Soulbury posts in it. Any transferring Soulbury staff member would have to move on to lower paid ‘Green Book’ terms. 

Unfortunately, Prospect hasn’t been consulted over these changes. I have written to the HR manager dealing with the restructure, quoting Section 11 and Appendix H of the Soulbury Agreement, and requesting that Prospect is included in all further consultations and provided with a more detailed rationale as to why Soulbury positions may be lost in favour of Green Book roles.

It is useful for Prospect officers to have as much notice as possible when it comes to restructures or other potential negotiating/consultation opportunities with employers. So if you believe that there is an issue coming up in your workplace that would benefit from the input of your Prospect Negotiator please let us know as soon as possible so that we can support you as effectively as we are able.

If you are unsure, or would simply like a visit from your Prospect full-time officer to discuss any of your local issues please email wakefield@prospect.org.uk and we would be happy to come along and speak to you.

Stuart Anderson 

As the academic year draws to a close I have spent much of my time supporting members in restructure and redundancy processes, as employers execute changes to be in place for September.

My colleagues and I support members in consultations but these are a fixed process and it is worth keeping sight of the fact that the consequence of change, particularly if poorly managed, will not be seen for some months after the initial activity of consultation and restructuring exercises.

Problems with the increased workload, that have resulted from changes or reduction of staffing are an important example of this, which I would encourage members to try to address early, in the first instance informally with their line managers and if this does not resolve the problem with the support of Prospect.

However, it is not purely in terms of workload that things can go wrong after a restructure.

Pay protection policies

I am currently supporting members at two different local authorities that, following being moved into a lower paying role via a restructure, are being asked to perform all or part of their old role.

Most Local Authorities, and many other employers, will have pay protection policies, which allow an employer to ask an employee to perform responsibilities at their former grade during the period in which the employee is receiving a protected salary.

This is meant for transition planning and for occasional use; with some local authorities protecting pay for two or more years it is not in my view appropriate to have staff, in effect, performing their old role for the duration, when the employer has identified this role as redundant.

While the temptation for managers trying to deliver a service, with ever decreasing resources are obvious, it is not fair on staff.

As is often the case Prospect would advise that if you find yourself in a problematic position following a restructure you address it as early as possible with a view to resolving things at the lowest possible level, but please do contact Prospect, if you find yourself in difficulty following the implementation of a new structure.

Angela Moffatt

Expression of interest – workplace representative

Glenn Walsh has been appointed as workplace rep for EANI – and we’ll be meeting as a group to take forward actions on recruitment, promotion and organisation.

Collective issues and engagement with management

There continues to be a heavy schedule of meetings with EANI

  • HR, Policy development
  • Directorate meetings – Education, CYPS, Finance/ICT, Ops & Estates
  • IFS project/e-payslips
  • JNC 

Member cases – group & individual issues

We’re continue to be kept busy with individual and small group issues for EA members on an ongoing basis. Previously the issue of secondments/temporary contracts had dominated but what is coming to the fore is issues around grade, particularly around inconsistencies & differing pay rates for NJC/Soulbury and also SPA points where applicable.