Librarians face pay cuts

15th December 2006 at 00:00
New evaluation process ignores educational role of library staff. Elizabeth Buie reports

school librarians are warning that the single status job evaluation process is leading to pay cuts in some authorities and a potential exodus from the profession. There have been accusations that the whole exercise is flawed because it fails to recognise the educational role of school librarians.

In North Lanarkshire, where the evaluation process has been completed earlier than in some other authorities, school librarians have been put down a grade.

This means that although the basic salary of around pound;20,000 will be conserved for three years, thereafter it will drop to pound;17,000.

Already, two of the 27 school librarians in the authority have resigned from their jobs to retrain as primary teachers.

Unison, the union representing many school librarians and other school staff affected by the evaluation - office administrators, ICT back-up staff, technicians, and outdoor instructors - says it is "very concerned" that a system intended to deliver equal pay for women seems to be delivering cuts in the pay of already low-paid women in some cases.

Glyn Hawker, Unison Scottish Organiser, said: "Obviously, we will look at individual or group cases of detriment in specific authorities and, where members are being unfairly treated for whatever reason, we will back appeals andor other appropriate action on their behalf."

However, different authorities are proceeding at different speeds and using different templates or evaluation schemes, making the situation even more complex.

Lindesay Burton, library resource centre manager at Kilsyth Academy, said school librarians in North Lanarkshire had lodged an appeal against the downgrading decision.

"We feel the questions did not apply to our position and the work we do.

They took no account of the fact we are very involved with children and classes. We certainly don't teach whole classes but we do teach half classes.

"So many points are allocated for different aspects of our job, but we were found to be three points short of our current grade. They said our job was sedentary, that we might get up occasionally to get to a workstation. But this is not a job you can easily categorise."

A school librarian from another authority, where the outcome of the evaluation exercise is imminent, said she and her colleagues feared they too would be downgraded, largely because of the nature of the evaluation exercise.

"The questions are designed for office workers, such as how many people they supervised, budgets, how many hours they spent on their feet. The questions had absolutely nothing to do with our educational input into the school."

Rhona Arthur, assistant director of CILIPS (the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland), said her institute was concerned about the way skills and competencies of school library staff were being evaluated within the scheme.

They provided support for ICT, supported learning and teaching, and helped pupils with literacy and information literacy.

They also offered a different environment which encouraged flexible and independent learning for some pupils with literacy and numeracy problems, she said.

Gavin Whitefield, chief executive of North Lanarkshire Council, said:

"Despite extensive negotiations, it was not possible to reach a collective agreement with the trade unions which would have offered the best solution in implementing job evaluationsingle status. The council had reached a point where it had to move forward to ensure we have a suitable pay and grading structure and protect the council from future equal pay claims, so the council agreed to implement the pay and grading model with effect from November 6."

Mr Whitefield said any em-ployee who was not satisfied with the evaluation of their post could appeal.

The council would also look again at posts where the salary will reduce after the three-year cash conservation period to see if the job description, and therefore the grade, could be changed, he added.

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