By Patrick Murphy, Divisional Secretary, Leeds NUT
Plans to make 50 teachers and 110 support staff redundant in Leeds by the end of August have been withdrawn as a result of the threat of strike action by trade unions.
The NUT, NASUWT, GMB and Unison formed a Joint Redundancy Action Group earlier this year to mount a united campaign against school redundancies. The group was set up in the aftermath of NUT action last July to fight teacher redundancies, and pledged to organise joint action if necessary this year.
By the end of May it was clear that large numbers of school staff had received section 188 notices placing them at risk and ending their employment at their individual schools. Each union, therefore, began the process of organising for strike action. By 23 June all four unions had won successful mandates for action. 82% of NUT members voted for a one-day strike, which was up slightly on the ballot held last year.
The Joint Action Group immediately sought talks with the LEA, as the main employer of most school staff, and argued that, like all other council staff, these workers should have a greater period of protection from redundancy (council workers have continued employment for up to 12 months after their post is redundant) and that there should be an assurance that there will be no compulsory redundancies at the end of term.
The initial talks were with representatives of a Labour-run council who looked likely to agree an extension of these contracts. Labour lost control of the council in the 10 June elections, however, and was replaced by a Lib Dem/Tory/Green alliance.
A second round of talks agreed a proposal to put to the new council and on 30 June this proposal was agreed and made a formal offer to the unions.
The settlement means that any school employee still without alternative work on 31 August will have their contract extended until 31 December. In the intervening time the employer will continue to make efforts to find them alternative employment.
They also agreed to a proposal that we negotiate an improved procedure for avoiding redundancy. One of the aims the four unions will have in these negotiations is the creation of a level playing field with other Council staff via a period of extended employment beyond the normal redundancy date.
The threat of joint action has saved jobs. As far as we are aware the joint approach (across all four major school unions) has not been taken to fight redundancies in other LEAs but we intend to continue the united campaign in Leeds and fight to avoid school redundancies wherever possible.