A teaching union leader has warned multi-academy trusts that worsening teachers' pay and conditions will add to the recruitment and retention crisis.
The National Education Union’s joint general secretary Kevin Courtney has voiced concerns after an academy trust announced plans to move away from national terms and conditions on sick pay.
Bradford Diocesan Academies Trust is in dispute with trade unions over cost-cutting plans which include reducing the the sick pay available to staff who are in a disciplinary process to 13 weeks.
It had originally consulted on removing all reference to the burgundy and blue books on conditions of service from staff contracts but now says it is not proposing a whole-scale move away from national pay and conditions.
However, it is in dispute with staff unions over its proposals to cut sick pay.
The NEU said it is surprised a Christian organisation would look to target "staff at their most vulnerable".
The union has also voiced concern about BDAT’s plans to make bigger pay deductions for staff taking unpaid leave and it says that it has been unable to reach an agreement over a minimum notice period for staff on probation with some some staff being “dismissed with effect from the end of term with only a few days’ notice.”
Mr Courtney said: "It seems inconceivable that at a time of national teacher shortages driven in part by the declining value of teachers' pay that the Bradford Diocesan Academies Trust should be considering a move away from national terms and conditions for teachers.
"Parents will be unhappy to hear that the trust is attacking teachers' terms and conditions and putting the recruitment and retention of high-quality staff in jeopardy.
"Teachers have a choice over where to work and the trust would do well to bear that in mind. The NEU will support its members fighting against any attacks on their conditions of employment.
John Howarth, the Bradford branch secretary of the NEU, said: “People cannot believe that a trust which is a Christian organisation is looking to make savings by targeting staff when they are their most vulnerable.”
However, BDAT, which runs 17 schools in Bradford, has said its changes will only affect 1 per cent of staff and will save the trust £500,000 – the equivalent of 20 jobs.
Last year BDAT consulted on proposals to “remove all references to recognising national terms and conditions, the burgundy book, blue book, local terms and conditions” from staff contracts.
However, a statement from the trust’s board said it was “not considering a whole-scale move away from national terms and conditions for teachers or non-teaching staff".
It said the changes were necessary because of real terms funding cuts for schools.
The statement added: "In order to retain control of future unfunded pay-rises set out by the government, and to minimise potential future redundancies, the trust has proposed some changes to staff terms which will ultimately protect jobs and ensure as much money as possible is retained by the schools to provide good quality education for our students in the classroom. We believe that such an approach is truly in accordance with our Christian ethos.”
Mr Howarth told Tes it would set a dangerous precedent if MATs use financial pressures on schools as a reason to move away from national pay and conditions.
“We know of no other employer acting in this arbitrary way”.