Strangford students support staff
ONE WEEK before the end of the school term, cleaners, classroom assistants and technical support staff in Strangford Integrated College had been left in a position where they didn't know what the future was going to hold for them.
Cleaners had been told that their jobs were to be privatised and that they would no longer be employed by the school.
Classroom assistants had been told that their working hours would be changed and that they would have to take on duties at lunch time, that was effectively supervision of the playground.
Technicians were told that their hours were to be cut, in effect meaning that their pay would be cut by 50%.
All these attacks were carried out without discussion. All of these workers are union members and the normal practice is to meet the unions to negotiate changes. Strangford College ignored normal procedures and went in with both feet, leaving union members with no choice but to fight.
The workers demanded that all threats be withdrawn in writing and that any proposed changes be negotiated with their union.
Some of the pupils at the school, who are members of Socialist Youth, organised a petition against the attacks on the non-teaching support workers.
Staff at the school organised to hold a protest at the school gates at 1pm Monday, 23 June. Members also vowed to go on strike, which, under the Tory laws, would have been deemed illegal, but, since their jobs were going to be changed beyond recognition, the threat of being sacked was of little consequence. Their branch also vowed to support them, which would have thrown them up at loggerheads against the bureaucrats in NIPSA Headquarters.
Once management found out about this, they capitulated and gave assurances in writing that no decisions would be taken without full and proper negotiation and consultation with unions.
For other articles from the July 2003 issue go here.