Exam board staff to strike on A-level results day, says UNISON  

Staff at exam board AQA are planning to strike over pay later ?this month on the day students receive their A-level grades, says UNISON today (Monday).

The 180 workers?, including those in customer services ?who would normally take calls from schools, parents and pupils about the results, will take action from Wednesday 17 to Sunday 21 August.

UNISON says this could cause issues for thousands of teenagers trying to contact AQA on Thursday 18 August?, A-level results day.

The union says ?this is the last thing dedicated AQA staff ?want to do. But employees are left with no alternative, while exam board executives refuse to budge beyond a pay offer that’s substantially below inflation.

?Wages ?at AQA increased last year by just 0.6%?, says UNISON. This year employees have been offered 3%, less than a third of the lowest measure of inflation (9.4%?). Last week the Bank of England said inflation could hit 13% by the autumn.

?UNISON says AQA is stubbornly refusing to discuss pay with staff. The union is also critical of senior managers for threatening workers ?with the sack and ?re-employment on inferior contracts if they don’t accept ?the current offer.

These new dates will be the third round of industrial action. AQA staff are also due to strike this Friday and into the weekend (12 to 15 August). They previously took action the weekend before last (29-31 July?).

UNISON ?North West regional manager Vicky Knight said: “?Employees at AQA are disappointed ?the company will neither talk to them nor ?come back with a realistic pay offer. ?This leaves staff ?with no choice but to escalate their action.

“Disrupting A-Level results day is not a decision ?anyone has take?n lightly. However, AQA staff have been treated appallingly and ?only bold action ?will get their employer to the table.

“AQA ?must come up with a serious offer to prevent any further disruption.”

A striking AQA worker said: “A-level results day is a really crucial time?. Many people can remember what it was like receiving ?their grades. No one wants to disrupt that?.

“After the first ?weekend of strike action, ?AQA staff were flooded with messages ?of support, many ?from people ?with children awaiting their grades?. They don’t mind waiting longer ?for the results if it means the people work?ing so hard to deliver th?em get paid fairly.

“?AQA colleagues are coming together ?to tak?e a stand against what’s happening. It was clear from the picket line turnout that there’s growing support, and we’re determined to win a fair resolution.”   

Notes to editors?:
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.

Media contacts:
Sam Doherty M: 07432 549759 E: s.doherty@unison.co.uk
Vicky Knight M: 07508 877057 E: v.knight@unison.co.uk
Liz Chinchen M: 07778 158175 E: press@unison.co.uk

The article Exam board staff to strike on A-level results day, says UNISON   first appeared on the UNISON National site.

Government must act swiftly to cap ‘horrific’ energy price hikes, says UNISON  

Responding to Ofgem’s confirmation today (Thursday) that the energy price cap will be updated more frequently, UNISON head of energy Matt Lay said:

“The government must stop pretending it’s done enough. Support for consumers has so far been pitiful. Other European governments have been both swifter and bolder to lessen the blows from big bills.

“All but the richest consumers face a terrifying prospect this winter. Many simply don’t have the means to pay. Swift and radical government action is needed to cap the horrific price hikes predicted. Otherwise, there will be a crisis of unimaginable proportions.”

Notes to editors: – UNISON is the UK’s largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.

Media contacts: Liz Chinchen M: 07778 158175 E: press@unison.co.uk Fatima Ayad M: 07908 377215 E: f.ayad@unison.co.uk

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Pay key to solving crisis in social care, says UNISON

Commenting on a report published today (Thursday) by the levelling up, housing and communities committee, which calls on the government to put more money into the social care sector, UNISON head of business and community Donna Rowe-Merriman said:

“The buck stops with government. Only ministers can solve the crisis in social care. Poverty of ambition and lack of will lie at the heart of their planned but rather limited reforms.

“The urgent priority must be a proper pay rise across the entire care sector. Low wages and inadequate sick pay explain why thousands of staff are quitting for better paid jobs elsewhere.

“The government also needs to ban profiteering, bring in proper regulation, and create a national care service. This would help improve staffing levels and the quality and availability of care, lessening the pressure on an overwhelmed NHS.”Notes to editors:– UNISON is the UK’s largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.Media contacts:Liz Chinchen M: 07778 158175 E: press@unison.co.uk

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£30m ambulance contract as effective as sticking plaster on wound, says UNISON

Commenting on the new £30m contract awarded by NHS England to St John Ambulance in an attempt to ease pressure on the ambulance service, UNISON ambulance lead Alan Lofthouse said:

“Th?is move ?is not what an under-pressure NHS needs. It will be about as effective as sticking a ?tiny plaster on a gaping wound.

“Putting additional non-NHS ambulances on the road without ?tackling the staffing crisis or the lack of capacity in A&E departments will mean even longer vehicle queues ?outside hospitals.

“The money ?would have been far better spent investing in pay, staffing, services and social care, so patients don’t have to wait hours to be seen and then can be sent home safely to recover.”

Notes to editors:
-UNISON is the UK’s largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.

Media contacts:
Liz Chinchen M: 07778 158175 E: press@unison.co.uk
Fatima Ayad M: 07508 080383 E: F.ayad@unison.co.uk

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Ridiculous pay plans would have spelt total disaster for the NHS, says UNISON

Commenting on reports today (Tuesday) that Conservative Party leadership contender Liz Truss has backed down on plans to cut the pay of public servants across the UK, UNISON deputy head of health Helga Pile said:

“The NHS is in the depths of the biggest staffing crisis it’s ever faced. Last month’s below-inflation pay award isn’t enough to stop experienced health workers from leaving a service that’s on the edge. This ridiculous policy would have spelt total disaster.

“Rather than make ill thought-out promises to appeal to Conservative party members, candidates should be thinking about what’s best for the country, the NHS and its patients.

“Cutting the wages of nurses, porters, paramedics and healthcare assistants in parts of the UK would have been the stuff of nightmares. Staff would simply have left for other hospitals paying better wages, or gone to work in other sectors, creating yet more chaos for struggling services.

“This sorry episode only serves to deepen the despair of staff battling to care for patients in horrendous conditions. That those vying to be PM were even thinking about slashing pay will be a huge blow to morale.

“The problems facing the health service need tackling from a national perspective. The starting point must be a reset on wages to an award that cushions staff against rising prices and helps the NHS boost its workforce so it can deliver for the millions awaiting treatment.”

Notes to editors:
-UNISON is the UK’s largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.

Media contacts:
Liz Chinchen M: 07778 158175 E: press@unison.co.uk

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Strikes to go ahead after exam board fails to improve pay offer, says UNISON   

Staff at exam board AQA are to go ahead with a 72-hour walkout starting tomorrow (Friday) after the employer failed to re-open talks over pay?, said UNISON.

The workers, including those who help organise the awarding of grades, will strike from Friday to Sunday (31 July) in action that could mean delays for students awaiting their GCSE and A-level results.

Many of the 180 staff affected say they’re struggling financially following successive below-inflation pay awards.

Their pay increased by 0.6%? last year, and AQA has offered 3% this year, which UNISON says represents another real-terms pay cut, with inflation at a 40-year high and set to rise even further.

The workers have been warned they could be sacked and rehired ?on different contracts if they don’t accept the offer, says the union.

UNISON ?North West regional organiser Lizanne Devonport said: “Talks with AQA to improve this poor deal would be welcome. But there’s been radio silence.

“Staff don’t want to let young people down by taking strike action at such a crucial time. They appreciate how much students rely on their grades and want them to succeed.

“But workers have been left with no alternative after years of what have effectively been wage cuts. They shouldn’t be left to struggle to pay bills that are soaring as the cost-of-living crisis deepens.

“AQA needs to get back around the table to ensure its hardworking staff are rewarded fairly.”

Notes to editors?:
– A picket will take place outside AQA’s offices on Devas Street, Manchester M15 6EX from 7.30am to noon on Friday 29 July, and from 8am to 10am on Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 July.
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.

Media contacts:
Lizanne Dev?onport M: 07961 088899 E: l.devonport@unison.co.uk
Jen Walley M: 07961 903281 E: j.walley@unison.co.uk
Fatima Ayad M: 07508 080383 E: press@unison.co.uk

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Unions react to pay offer for council and school staff  

The three unions representing council and school staff in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have today (Monday) reacted to the £1,925 flat rate pay offer from the local government employers:

UNISON head of education and local government Mike Short said: “Council and school workers are enduring a major cost of living crisis, with inflation running at over 11%. This offer is better than employees might have expected, given the low pay rises of recent years.

“It shows local government employers are beginning to understand the financial nightmare school and council staff are living through. But it’s not enough to make up for a decade and more of lost wages.”

GMB national secretary Rehana Azam said: “Local government and schools workers kept our vital institutions running during the pandemic. Now, like everyone else, they’re being pushed to the brink by the cost-of-living crisis.

“Whilst real terms pay cuts risk exacerbating the staffing crisis, we recognise this is an offer that warrants further scrutiny so we can assess its impact on our members. GMB will now meet with reps and members to discuss the next steps.”

Unite acting national officer Clare Keogh said: “Council workers have already suffered over a decade of below-inflation wage rises and this is another pay cut dressed up as a pay increase.

“The cost-of-living crisis is hitting council workers hard, many already can’t afford to make ends meet, spiralling food costs and energy bills will more than swallow the pay offer being proposed.”

Back in June, UNISON, GMB and Unite submitted a joint claim calling for a pay boost of at least £2,000 for all council and school staff. Unions will now consult with their members over the offer.

Notes to editors:
– The unions’ 2022 claim, which applies from 1 April 2022, would see council and school employees receive either a £2,000 rise or the current rate of RPI (presently 11.8%), whichever is higher. The three unions say ?staff working in local government have seen an average of 27.5% wiped from the value of their pay since 2010.
-The one-year offer from the Local Government Association would see wage increases of between 4% for senior council and school staff, and 10.5% for those on the lowest grades.

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Government must take responsibility for the NHS and social care workforce crisis, says UNISON  

Responding to the Health and Social Care Committee’s workforce report published today (Monday), UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said:

“The staffing crisis in the NHS and social care grows worse by the day as employees leave for fairer wages on the high street and elsewhere.

“The government’s had years to improve the workforce situation but has done little. Only last week ministers could have acted to stop the exodus of porters, healthcare assistants and other NHS staff with an above-inflation wage rise. But chose not to.

“Instead, the government refuses to invest in the staff so critical to the NHS. Th?at means longer waiting lists and ambulance delays, with even more patients forced to fork out for private tests and treatment.

“?Rishi Sunak says tackling the NHS backlog is the UK’s biggest public services emergency. But this won’t happen without proper investment in the NHS and social care workforce. ?That must begin with a decent pay rise for all staff.”

Notes to editors: 

– UNISON is the UK’s largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.

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Government must act now to ensure pupils’ learning is not disrupted in ?September

Unions have jointly written to new education secretary James Cleverly ?today (Friday) calling for urgent action during the summer holidays to protect schools in England ahead of the next Covid wave.

The letter has been sent by? seven unions representing leaders and staff in schools – UNISON, ASCL, NAHT, NEU, GMB, NASUWT and Unite – and says ministers must use the time during ?the summer break to implement a range of measures to minimise disruption and cut lost learning.

These include improved ventilation, air filtration, free lateral flow tests, renewed public guidance on reducing risks and a fresh push on encouraging vaccination.

The unions are calling for the “preventative measures” after attendance levels hit a five-month low in the first week of July. That coincided with an upsurge ?in Covid infections. 

The letter has been signed by UNISON head of education Mike Short, ASCL general secretary Geoff Barton, NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman, NEU joint general secretaries Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney, GMB national officer Avril Chambers, NASUWT general secretary Patrick Roach and Unite regional officer Clare Keogh.

In it the unions say absence rates have been “a real cause for concern”, and there are signs the next wave of infections could be even greater.

“Given what has been learnt about the level of educational disruption and illness this virus can still cause the government must act now,” the letter says. It adds that education staff have among the highest rates of Long Covid according to the Office for National Statistics.

“We therefore urge you to immediately set out your plans for using the school holidays to protect learning and health in the ?autumn and winter.”

The letter calls on the government to:

  • provide additional funding to schools to improve ventilation and support spiralling energy costs,
  • provide effective air filtration devices to all schools for September as an immediate measure until ventilation is improved,
  • re-establish funding for schools to cover supply costs for teaching and support staff absences in the autumn term since this has been a major additional expense for schools over the last two years,
  • make free lateral flow tests available to all staff and pupils in education settings,
  • issue clear public health guidance on what the public should be doing to minimise the chance of infection,
  • run a public health messaging campaign on vaccination to boost the low rates of childhood vaccination,
  • publish updated guidance for schools on face covering, and
  • reinstate Covid risk assessments, including for vulnerable workers and pregnant staff.

Notes to editors:
– The full letter can be read here.

 

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Government plans to use agency workers to break strikes ?are dangerous and unlawfull

A new law allowing employers to use agency workers to replace striking staff during industrial disputes is to be challenged in the courts, UNISON has announced today (?Friday).

The UK’s largest union says it plans to take the government to court over the controversial change to the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Business Regulations 2003, which came into force yesterday (Thursday 21 July).

The union has written to business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng about its intention to seek a judicial review of the new regulations, which it believes are unlawful.

The secretary of state now has 14 days to respond, otherwise the union says it will take the government to the High Court to try to get the measure overturned.

The letter says the government’s reliance on a seven-year-old consultation and flawed evidence to justify changing the law is unlawful.

UNISON says it also intends to show that the government is in breach of Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights?, which protects the right to strike, and international labour standards.

UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said: “The government is prepared do anything to stop strikes, except encourage dialogue and sensible industrial relations.

“Sending agency staff into disputes to break strikes will only fan the flames and make it harder for employers and unions to reach agreement.

“Ministers have been spooked by the sympathy people ?are showing for workers fighting for fair wages.* The government’s cynical solution is to ride a coach and horses through employment law, risking the safety of staff and the public by parachuting in agency workers who won’t know the ropes.

“Strikes are only ever a last resort, and often the only avenue left to employees in the face of hostile employers. Changing the law to make it harder for workers to win disputes is both reckless and unlawful. If ministers won’t back down, we’ll take the government to court to prove it.”

Notes to editors: 
-*Earlier this week, 13 of the UK’s health unions published polling undertaken by Savanta ComRes, which found that 58% of UK adults believe NHS workers would be justified in taking industrial action if the government’s pay award in England was below inflation.
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.

 

 

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