ECSG updates from the frontline: November 2019

ECSG updates from the frontline: November 2019

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



Claire Dent – Negotiations officer 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

It has been a relatively quiet period in Education and Childrens Service due in part to the school holidays. However, I have continued to support individual members and consult on various changes within areas.

Croydon

Octavo, which is a separate trading company, may move back directly under Croydon Council’s control.

These changes have been brought about by the Council’s decision to no longer have a commissioning contract for School Improvement and are intending to take this work back in-house.

The changes proposed are a governance decision, and the services and staffing are unlikely to be affected at this time. Staff will be transferred back into the Council’s employment if this goes ahead, with their terms and conditions protected under the TUPE regulations.

The Council will use Octavo’s service next year but going forward they will be obliged to go out to tender for these services.

Ealing

Ealing Council have launched their School Effectiveness Policy which sets out what support the Council will offer schools alongside their statutory School Improvement duties.

Medway

Medway Council are forecasting a spending gap of £6m this year. This is in line with many other councils I cover. It is hoped that this will not result in job losses.

They have also been awarded an inadequate score on the latest Ofsted inspection on their Children Services. The report also highlighted concerns around the Early Help service. They have a plan for improvement and feel positive that this situation can be rectified with support from the DfE.

Herts for Learning

After lengthy discussions the joint unions agreed a pay increase of 2.1% for all staff. Members were satisfied with this offer and subsequently agreed it.

Personal cases

I continue to support a member in Central Bedfordshire who, despite being recruited on to a Soulbury grade, is not being paid the national pay rate. It appears that in spite of my best efforts to resolve this informally the member will need to lodge a formal grievance. If this is still not resolved following a formal process it will be referred to the National Soulbury Committee for a ruling.

Prospect benefits from have a strong voice on this national committee so I am optimistic that we can bring this to a satisfactory conclusion for our member.

I have recently been advising a member working in a Childrens Centre around concerns that she and her colleagues did not follow the correct Safeguarding policy. Some of her colleagues are members of a generalist union and have been disappointed by the advice and support offered to them.

The strength and benefit of belonging to Prospect is that we have the expertise and understanding to advise on professional roles. The member has expressed her gratitude for the sound, expert advice she has been offered and the understanding of Safeguarding protocols and procedures.

Recruitment

I continue to strive to recruit at every opportunity. My local rep in West Sussex is retiring at Christmas and as yet I have not been able to identify a replacement.

Having someone local in areas and workplaces is fundamental to ensuring I am kept aware of local issues and can represent you locally and nationally. I currently have some excellent reps, working tirelessly for the benefit of their colleagues and Prospect. Please consider joining them and becoming a rep for Prospect.

It is not a particularly arduous role and could just involve distributing leaflets or information for me. There is excellent training available if and when you would like to do more than this and it enhances your CV. All you have to do is contact my office at WakefieldOffice@prospect.org.uk

Chris Manning

Over the summer period it is usually quieter across the ECS Group due to holidays. However I have supported 28 ECS Group members since July with individual cases involving issues such as grievance, performance management, restructure/redundancy, pay, complaint investigation, stress, absence management, pensions and other questions relating to terms & conditions and fair treatment.

As a result of the case handling support provided by Prospect, members have been able to air their grievances, see improvements made to their working arrangements and, if the outcome has been a redundancy situation, they have had the best possible severance terms negotiated for them. 

I have had continuing involvement with consultations in Northamptonshire, who 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.

I am involved in consultations over policy wording in Hampshire County Council and have continued to attend the various Welsh Government education stakeholder group meetings.

The week of 9th to 16th November is Prospect’s annual “Union Week”. This will be a week of concerted membership recruitment activity across the whole of Prospect. Members are encouraged to help recruit colleagues into our union and Prospect staff are available to assist in any way we can.

If you think that there could be an opportunity to recruit some of your colleagues into Prospect, and you would like someone from Prospect to visit your workplace and talk to non-members about the benefits of joining, please email wakefield@prospect.org.uk to let us know and we will work with you to arrange the appropriate recruitment activity.

Stuart Anderson

I have written before about the importance of early engagement with redundancy and restructure consultations. This is the best way to influence the outcome and Prospect would always seek to engage as early as possible and ideally prior to the start of a formal consultation process.

I was therefore please to be contacted by members at a local authority this month, who, not only wished to engage with their employer on certain proposals about the future of their service but had also started to work out specific proposals.

In order to support this process I have been in contact with the local authority to discuss the scope of proposed changes and I hope to be able to provide members with more information about any saving the service needs to make in the coming year.  

Challenge the process

Despite early engagement with the process and the relatively robust procedures that most local authorities have in place, there will be occasions when we need to challenge the process and outcome of a restructure.

Where members have been selected for redundancy this will most likely take the form of an appeal, collective grievances may also be used when members are not happy with the way an employer has dealt with a consultation and section process.

This is the case with a group of members I have been supporting since the start of this academic year. With members feeling both unfairly selected for redundancy and, in some cases, selected for roles that they do not feel appropriate.

We are at present using the employer’s local policies to challenge this. It is important that we do this, not only because it is always best to resolve matters at the lowest possible level, but also because if an unfair dismissal claim is made in the Employment Tribunal, failure to exhaust all options to resolve the matter in the workplace is likely to result in reduction in any final award, even if the case is won.

Angela Moffatt

Your Education Authority Northern Ireland workplace representatives are:

  • Glenn Walsh
  • Peter McAlister
  • Sean Maguire.

Sean Maguire will be standing down from the end of this year as a rep for EANI after a lengthy and outstanding period of service in the role. 

We are immensely grateful to Sean for all of his dedicated work and efforts, including his unfailing good humour in the face of much to test it, and an intelligent and tenacious approach to his role!  Sean – thank you and all of the very best for the future.

Glenn and Peter will carry on the good work – and please get in touch with them if you need any help or advice.

Union Week

Watch out for us in Union Week – starting 9 November 2019.  We’re aiming to visit workplaces, with freebies and info – you can pop along to see us at your convenience for a chat and advice.  New members you refer will get 3 months free and you’ll get a £10 voucher for every new joiner who cites you on their form.  We’ll email more details in due course but we’re hoping to see as many current and new members as possible over the week.

Collective issues and engagement management

A heavy schedule of meetings with EANI has taken place including HR, JNC, Policy development, NJC grading and the Joint Directorate Forum meetings for Education, CYPS, Finance/ICT, Ops & Estates.

Member cases: group and individual issues

We’ll continue to be kept busy with individual and small group issues for EA members on an ongoing basis. We emphasise that early intervention is the key to resolving most problems quickly – if you are feeling uncertain or concerned about anything please let us know and we can help face to face, by phone or email.

We have some cases that are taking a very long time to sort through – often because they have been years in the making and will take a long time to unravel.  We are also not helped by the slow rate of action – a key issue for members is the lack of urgency from management to push issues to a conclusion quickly.