Academies can slash your pay

14th October 2005 at 01:00
Ruth Kelly's U-turn on academy teachers' need to register with the General Teaching Council for England (TES, September 30) is, of course, welcome.

Why should academy parents not have the same assurances as others?

But another issue of great concern, which she should address, is that academies are exempt from employing new staff on comparable conditions of service to a local-authority school.

Contracting out public-sector, services has brought arguments about two-tier workforces, where staff do the same job on different terms and conditions. Wages and benefits have been driven down by new employers.

The Government has now accepted that competition should not result in poorer employment standards and, in 2003, introduced a code of practice on workforce matters in local authority service contracts. This means successful bidders must give staff terms and conditions no less favourable than they had before.

Before this year's general election, unions met ministers to agree our continued support. One of the agreements was that measures to protect staff caught up in contracting out should be extended across the public sector.

We were shocked to find that academies would not have to employ staff on equivalent conditions to staff in the maintained sector (even though academies are fully maintained). It seems odd that profit-making companies have to maintain employment standards while academies do not.

Many academies will not even recognise unions and have no intention of taking on board the workforce remodelling agreement which the Government claims to prize. The system will lead to professional stagnation as staff with protected benefits shrink from promotion and new contracts that require them to move to inferior conditions of service.

It seems a grave injustice that supposedly innovative education organisations have got the freedom to undercut pay and conditions agreed with local authorities and to ignore the national agenda. It reinforces the image of academies as the favoured and spoiled children of the education system.

Christine Lewis. National officer, Unison 1 Mabledon Place, London WC1

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