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Public Inquiry >>
Classroom Assistants demand the truth
Hold them to account
As part of the Classroom Assistants ongoing battle for justice they are demanding to know the truth about the current offer made by management.
Below is the text of a letter that will be sent to all Stormont MLAs
Management, Stormont Assembly members and the press are pressurising Classroom Assistants to accept the current offer in the Classroom Assistants job evaluation dispute. This is despite the fact that there are major questions over the financial accuracy of the offer.
The figures quoted in the press by Assembly members and Management change on an almost daily basis. Initially in 2003 Management believed that the cost of Classroom Assistants job evaluation would be Ł80 million. Subsequently the Minister for Education, Caitroina Ruane, announced a figure of Ł30 million and most recently figures of Ł40 and Ł45 million have been stated. It is the September offer of Ł25.2 million + Ł15 million buy out that Classroom Assistants are being pressurised to accept.
There are two parts to Management’s offer to Classroom Assistants. Management has set a figure of Ł25.2 million for the job evaluation part of the offer and Ł15 million for the buy out of historic terms and conditions.
For Classroom Assistants and the general public, who count their wages in pounds and pence, Ł25.2 m and Ł15 m sounds like a lot of money but when it is broken down for each individual Classroom Assistant it is a very small sum of money in comparison to what they are entitled to.
I am very concerned that even this insulating offer is not what it appears to be. It seems that the offer has either been deliberately or accidentally falsified.
The Education Boards worked out this figure and then sent it to the Department of Finance and Personnel for approval. It is not clear if the Department of Education had any detailed knowledge of how this figure was calculated.
Ł25.2 MILLION JOB EVALUATION
The Ł25.2 million is based on management’s costing of back pay for the last 12 years totalling Ł21.7 million plus Ł3.5 million for this year.
It would appear that management’s calculation of the Ł25.2 million is based on entirely false assumptions about the current and proposed pay levels for Classroom Assistants.
Although the Department of Finance and Personnel was asked to and did approve the figure of Ł25.5 million, Management has since admitted to all the trade unions that it is not an accurate figure.
Ł15 MILLION BUY OUT
Management’s offer of a buy out is based on splitting Ł15 million between all Classroom Assistants. Management propose to split the money as follows:
Each Classroom Assistant with 0-5 year’s service will receive Ł1614.00
Each Classroom Assistant with more than 5 years service will receive Ł2479.00
I understand that Management buy out figures are based on splitting the money between 6824 Classroom Assistants.
The trade unions are claiming the following level of Classroom Assistant membership
NIPSA 3100, UNISON 2500, GMB 1570, ATL 50, T&G have not stated a figure.
In addition there are many Classroom Assistants who are not members of any trade union
The trade union figure means that there are at least 7220 Classroom Assistants in Northern Ireland.
That is a difference of at least 396 Classroom Assistants or 10.5% between the Management figure and the trade union figure.
According to the trade union figures the Ł15 million buy will have to be split between many more people than management is admitting.
If the trade union membership figures are true this would make a massive difference to the level of buy out for each Classroom Assistant.
JOB EVALUATION MONEY DIVERTED
The Department of Education has set aside money solely for use in the Classroom Assistants job evaluation (earmarked money).
It appears that one Board intends using job evaluation earmarked money for other purposes.
The April 2007 minutes of the SEELB Commissioners (The Direct Rule Minister and the Department of Education replaced the Board with Commissioners when the Board refused to implement cuts primarily aimed at special needs spending) state
“it is unlikely that the total cost of back pay in the SEELB would be in excess of Ł6m, which is less than the SEELB share of the Ł30m……………………………Currently the proposal is that some of the Ł30m allocated for back pay will be used to employ additional staff to implement the agreement.”
To summarise the current situation
Management are pressurising Classroom Assistants to accept an offer which they claim is
Ł25.2 million for job evaluation plus Ł15 million for a buy out which is to be split between 6824 Classroom Assistants.
The reality is that
the real value of the offer is not clear; the true figure of the number of Classroom Assistants is unclear which means that the long term impact on education budgets is unclear
It would be completely irresponsible for any trade union, the Education Boards, the Government Departments or any other interested party to accept a position where an offer has not been properly costed. The implications for Classroom Assistants, the budget for Special Needs education and the budgets of schools and Boards are enormous.
I believe that public representatives have a responsibility to investigate this situation.
I would be grateful for your views on this issue and would urge you to raise this issue publicly.
I appreciate that the details I have provided are quite complex and I am happy to meet with you if you would like clarification.