SEVEN UNIONS have warned about their dispute with the UK’s largest academy trust over staff cuts, low pay and outsourcing.
The unions have now registered a failure to agree with London-based Academies Enterprise Trust (AET) which means the trust now has to halt all cuts and outsourcing to allow for last ditch talks at conciliation service ACAS
Unions have been forced into this step by AET’s refusal to engage in meaningful negotiation over a variety of issues.
These include AET’s unwillingness to provide essential financial information on its plans for its schools, outsourcing of school services, holding down of teacher pay progression, failure to tackle workload and cuts to frontline school support staff.
Workload across the trust has increased to such an extent staff are becoming ill – despite repeated warnings, say the unions.
AET is also refusing to release details of the recent financial support it received from the government, including the full conditions it signed up to in return for this money.
Questions are now even being asked in Parliament about this funding deal and the lack of transparency around it.
Schools across the UK are affected – including those in London, Birmingham, Leeds, Bristol, Middlesbrough, Barnsley, Gloucester and Milton Keynes.
In 2017, AET cut dozens of jobs in a bid to slash £1.4 million from its schools’ estates budget – which unions say put children’s safety at risk.
Sharon Wilde, GMB National Officer for Schools, said: ‘Once again our hard working members are paying the price for AET’s mistakes.
‘These cuts will put children’s lives at risk and we simply cannot allow that to happen.
‘The trust is pursuing a policy of rampant outsourcing while creating a working environment so stressful it is literally making our members ill.
‘AET needs to stop hiding its financial documents and come clean so we can have a proper discussion about the future of the trust.’
Jon Richards, Unison head of education, said: ‘The trust’s increasingly reckless approach to running its schools is a huge cause for concern.
‘Cuts have placed intolerable pressure on support staff and the effects are being felt in the classroom.
‘The proposed outsourcing of support staff jobs will make a bad situation worse.’
Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary, National Education Union said: ‘The negotiating environment has deteriorated over the past year as AET races to the bottom.
‘Teachers’ pay progression is one of the lowest in the sector, IT staff are being outsourced with few guarantees and staff workload is a severe problem.
‘We’re asking AET to rethink its entire approach to industrial relations and engage in meaningful talks at ACAS.’