Support staff claim they’re being bullied

Fifty staff from The Priory School signed a petition opposing the new contracts. SG160514-142TW
Fifty staff from The Priory School signed a petition opposing the new contracts. SG160514-142TW
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Hundreds of teaching assistants and school support staff face redundancy unless they sign new county council contracts that could cut their pay.

One Spalding teaching assistant, who asked not to be named, is thinking of quitting after 20 years in the job.

She said: “The new contracts are due to be sent out on June 1. Basically we are being railroaded into signing new contracts that we don’t agree with.”

Staff will lose points off their pay scales if they have more than eight days a year off sick or if it’s deemed they haven’t met targets set in appraisals.

The teaching assistant said: “I have built my pay scale right up. Everybody is absolutely up in arms about it.”

Among others affected are office staff, caretakers, cleaners, cooks and catering assistants.

The teaching assistant said their union, Unison, has pulled out of negotiations and the council is talking directly to staff.

A petition to the county council says: “We strongly object to the intimidating manner in which this consultation is taking place as it is unacceptable practice: namely the thinly veiled threat to dismiss any employee who does not sign the new contract, which we regard as bullying behaviour on the part of Lincolnshire County Council and is demeaning to all staff.”

Fifty staff at Spalding’s The Priory School are among those who have signed the petition.

Priory School head Daran Bland said: “I support staff in terms of their frustrations as such, but it is difficult to know as a headteacher what kind of impact I can have on the situation because we haven’t been consulted in terms of our view of support staff contracts either.”

He said it appears to have been presented as a fait accompli.

Staff at St Paul’s Community Primary School in Spalding haven’t signed the petition, according to business manager Nicky Effield, who said staff are clear on what’s happening and know “there’s not much of a choice”.

Council executive director for children’s services Debbie Barnes said the unions were “unable to negotiate on some aspects of the proposal at local level”. She continued: “This is the reason we have consulted with staff directly and we strongly argue that this has been undertaken in a positive, engaging way and is not bullying behaviour. The feedback received from staff will be taken into consideration when drawing up the final proposals.

“If a collective agreement cannot be reached on the final proposals, and individual employees do not accept them, the council may have to dismiss individuals and seek to hire them back under the new terms and conditions. However we are continuing to talk with trade unions and hope to have discussions about a collective agreement as an alternative.”