ECSG from the frontline: April 2019

ECSG updates from the frontline: April 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

Claire Dent

It has once again been a settled period in Education and Children Services and personal cases have dominated my workload. However, there have been some collective issues that I have addressed.

As previously reported I, along with my union colleagues had attempted to open a dialogue with Herts for Learning (HfL) around gaining recognition and therefore bargaining rights for all their employees.

The joint unions already hold recognition for staff that transferred over to HfL under TUPE regulations. However, as we move into a new period new staff that are recruited directly into HfL do not benefit from having their terms and conditions negotiated collectively by their union officials.

While the management within HfL acknowledge the benefit of negotiating with the unions collectively they are not prepared to extend this recognition for all staff.

The board concurred with this decision and as no members have contacted me or expressed concerns about this we have had to accept that at this time the collective agreement cannot be extended.

HfL have also moved to increase sick leave payment to include the first day of sickness, it was previously only paid from the third day. However in order to offer this they have reduced redundancy payment to statutory as opposed to contractual which staff TUPE’d over enjoyed.

The joint unions did object to this change but again was unable to affect this decision through negotiation.

Personal cases

Of the personal cases I have been dealing with stress related to workload demands has dominated. It is so important that if your role is causing you to feel stressed or unwell you raise this with your line manager at the earliest opportunity.

Prospect has a guide to Stress in the Workplace and what steps you can take with support from us to try to tackle this.

School and Academy Show

I attended the School and Academy Show in London in April. The education secretary, Damian Hinds, spoke at length about collaboration and how important both local and national collaboration can be to reduce costs to schools. He specifically focused on IT.

There was no mention however of the middle tier in education and how collaboration could enhance or be applied within school improvement and he did not stay to answer any questions.

The shadow minister for education, Mike Kane, was due to appear the following day but was apparently busy with Brexit so I was unable to gain his views on this.

Chris Manning

As always, personal case handling for ECS Group members has taken up the majority of my time over in recent months; supporting members through grievance, disciplinary, performance management, restructure/redundancy and pensions issues.

Many of these can be quite complex and can take many weeks to reach a satisfactory conclusion; in all cases the member never expected that they would ever find themselves in a position where they would need assistance from their union but were extremely glad of their membership when the time came for them to use it. 

If you do think that a situation may be arising where you would need support either individually, or collectively along with other affected Prospect members, please contact us at the earliest opportunity. The sooner that Prospect can get involved, the greater the chance of a successful resolution.

Local authorities

In Local Authorities there are other unions who have far greater membership levels than Prospect, so as a result Prospect sometimes gets ‘forgotten’ when it comes to consultation over changes.

This is where we rely upon you, the local members, to tell us about potential issues so that we can make sure that we get involved and make representations on your behalf.

One recent consultation saw a Local Authority proposing to impose a pay cut to all staff in order to save money and as an alternative to wider job losses.

The reduction in pay was scheduled to take effect on 1st April to coincide with the pay rise being implemented for all LA staff on the NJC Agreement.

The logic was that by ‘taking’ on the same day that they were ‘giving’, staff would still receive a small net increase and nobody would suffer a detriment.

However, Prospect members on Soulbury terms don’t receive their pay increase until 1st September so would suffer a detriment as a result of the 1st April pay reduction. 

Members understood the requirement for the LA to save money and to protect jobs but just wanted equal treatment to their NJC colleagues.

After a successful negotiation with the employer it was agreed that the pay reduction for Soulbury staff would be deferred until 1st September.

In the last few weeks I have enjoyed visits to two Local Authorities where I have held drop-in surgeries for members and have taken the opportunity to speak to members and non-members alike about the benefits of Prospect membership.

A number of new members have been recruited and I will be visiting another LA in a couple of weeks’ time.

If you would like a visit from your Prospect full-time officer please email [email protected] and we would be happy to come along and speak to you.

Stuart Anderson

I was recently contacted by a group of members in a Local Authority School Improvement Service, who had been presented with a document for their agreement that would change their contracts to include certain post termination restrictive covenants. 

The new language seeks to prevent employees from working in competition with the local authority for 12 months after ceasing to work for the authority for any reason.

In this particular case a short consultation was proposed and eventual withdrawn after strong objections from members. So the changes will not be made in the short term, however we do not know what the authorities future plans are regarding inserting post termination restrictive covenants into existing contracts.

This is a troubling turn of events for ECS members at the proposed contractual restrictions could operate to prevent members from work as self-employed educational consultants or in other authorities where a traded service might be in competition with their current employer.

Post termination restrictive covenants will not always be binding, but this is a complicated area of law with the enforceability of contracts being decided in a very sensitive way by the courts. More information can be found here. However, if your employer does seek to introduce new restrictive covenants into your contract you should contact your Prospect full time officer as soon as possible.