Politics

Unison ballots 140,000 school support staff for strike

Vote over councils' £1,925 pay offer raises prospect of even greater disruption to schools this autumn

Vote over councils' £1,925 pay offer raises prospect of even greater disruption to schools this autumn

Around 140,000 support staff working in England’s schools will be balloted for strike action from today after rejecting a pay rise of at least £1,925.

Unison, the biggest school support staff union, has launched the national ballot after warning the offer from councils is “nowhere near what’s needed to meet rising prices during the cost of living crisis”.

In February, public service workers employed by councils were offered an increase of at least £1,925 from April. The deal would have represented a 9.42 per cent rise for the lowest-paid, and 3.88 per cent for those above the top of the spine.

But Unison, along with the GMB and Unite, which also represent some support staff, rejected the deal. They had called for a 12.7 per cent rise, which they said amounted to 2 per cent above projected inflation.

The hike would affect not only maintained school staff and wider local government workforces, but also employees at many academy trusts – which are not involved in negotiations but typically honour the deals.

Unite is still preparing for its own ballot of support staff, while the GMB is yet to firm up its plans.

Strike could add to autumn disruption

Unison’s six-week ballot, which closes on July 4, raises the prospect of even greater disruption in the autumn term. Teachers and heads are also currently being re-balloted for strikes, and leaders have said they would aim to coordinate any action with other unions.

Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Too often council and school support staff are taken for granted. Without them, the services on which whole communities rely won’t exist.

“With cuts to local government and education budgets, employees are having to do more with far less. That puts huge pressure on an already-stretched workforce struggling to keep afloat as costs continue to soar.”

She warned staff were leaving their jobs “because pay is falling ever further behind, and neighbourhoods will suffer”.

“Bins won’t be collected, schools won’t have sufficient staff and vulnerable people will be deprived of vital support.

“These workers are truly dedicated but they’ve had enough. Going on strike is a huge step that isn’t taken lightly but many feel they have to make a stand.”

The national employers – which represents most councils – were approached for comment.

They previously said they “believe their offer is fair to employees, given the wider economic backdrop”.

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