Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education – By Tim Lezard Michael Gove has launched an astonishing attack on the rights of teachers to take time off for trade union activities. The Secretary of State for Education, who as an NUJ member himself in …
– By Tim Lezard
Michael Gove has launched an astonishing attack on the rights of teachers to take time off for trade union activities.
The Secretary of State for Education, who as an NUJ member himself in 1989 went on strike whilst working on the Press and Journal in Aberdeen, has issued new guidance concerning facility time for reps. Non-teaching unions are bound to be concerned the new restrictions will apply to their workplaces too.
Among the guidance is:
- a ban on union offices in schools if they are only used for union activities
- reps must spend at least half their time teaching
- reps should spent no more than a day a week on union business
- reps should be accountable to their school managers / employers
- reps should adhere to a code of conduct
- managers to decide what constitutes “reasonable” time off
The document, entitled Advice on trade union facility time for school leaders, governing bodies, employers and employees in schools, was immediately condemned by unions.
NUT general secretary Christine Blower said: Studies show that facility time for trade union duties represents excellent value for money for individual employers and the wider economy. We believe that schools will continue to recognise both their statutory responsibilities and the value of facilities time, which encourage the early resolution of disputes and avoids the costs associated with escalated disputes.
“The advice recognises the role that local authorities take in managing a central fund which academies may buy into. We believe that this is the most efficient method of managing local trade union facility time in the education sector.
“This guidance, whilst confirming schools’ and local authorities’ statutory responsibilities, is unnecessary. Decisions on arrangements are best decided locally between schools, local authorities and recognised trade unions. The vast majority of schools will recognise that this is in the best interests of good education practice.
“All union representatives who receive facility time to represent members employed in schools should spend the majority of their working hours carrying out their main duties as school employees.”
ATL general secretary Mary Bousted said: “Once again the Department of Education (DfE) is ignoring the evidence, which is particularly ironic in the light of David Laws’s speech today extolling the benefits of evidence based teaching.
“Numerous studies have found that trade union representatives help schools save money by boosting teachers’ skills, helping staff work as efficiently as possible, minimising the turnover of teachers and support staff, reducing conflict at work, and improving health and safety – all of which benefit children.
“Today’s DfE advice is a one-size-fits-all approach and is simply not workable.
“Local authorities and schools already have flexible, reasonable and regularly reviewed arrangements to ensure staff are released for trade union work at times which fit their local circumstances. As the DfE advice itself acknowledges, trade union facility time accounts for less than 0.1% of most local authorities’ school and schools’ pay-bill, even before any of the benefits of union work are taken into account.
“The DfE’s advice is an unnecessary distraction. ATL will continue to work with local authorities and head teachers to keep union support for schools working well so that we can all focus on the day job of teaching children and raising standards in the classroom.”
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