Further talks as teaching union suspends action

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FURTHER talks between the NASUWT and government officials were expected to take place today as part of an ongoing pay dispute, after the teaching union paused its industrial action scheduled for this week.

News that the NASUWT would postpone its action short of strike action, due to start today, came as Jersey’s other main teaching union, the NEU, confirmed dates for a three-day walkout next month.

Meanwhile, a member of the care sector called the widespread disruption “frustrating for people who live pay cheque to pay cheque and can’t work”.

Several schools had already spelled out changes to their normal timetables as a result of NASUWT members being unavailable for the majority of extra-curricular activities, with revised communications hurriedly sent out in a bid to keep parents updated.

It has also been confirmed that the NEU, whose members have already gone on strike for three days during the current term, will walk out for three consecutive days starting on Tuesday 12 December.

The NEU had initially scheduled three days of strikes for mid-November, but postponed this action as a gesture of goodwill as a result of the disruption caused by Storm Ciarán at the start of the month.

Both unions have been seeking an improved pay deal above the 7.9% offered by the employer. This figure was accepted by other public sector workers, but the teaching unions said it failed to match the current level of inflation and continued a trend of real-term pay cuts in recent years.

Head teachers had also been part of the pay dispute, but a settlement was agreed during October. News that heads and deputy heads would receive one-off payments, in addition to the 7.9% pay rise, sparked anger among rank-and-file teachers who said they had been consistently told by the government that no further money was available.

The latest developments in the long-running pay dispute between teachers and the government triggered frustration about the knock-on effect on parents working in other sectors.

Lynda Cotillard, director of Personal Touch Care Services, said her business, and the care sector in general, had suffered serious disruption as a result of school closures and the uncertainty surrounding industrial action by teachers.

She said: “I’ve got four staff, a third of the total number, who can’t work if schools are closed – they would typically be seeing six or seven clients a day, and those people either have their visits cut short or are put at risk because they won’t receive care.

“The unions’ plans keep changing, often at the last minute – no one knows which schools will be affected by the action from which union, it’s really frustrating for people who live pay cheque to pay cheque and can’t work, and it’s disruptive for their colleagues as well.”

States Employment Board vice-chair Andy Jehan welcomed the NASUWT’s decision to suspend its industrial action.

“We will continue to talk with them in the meantime, in an effort to find a solution,” he added.