Overtime cuts spark fury

4th September 1998 at 01:00
FRANCE

Unions turn on government as pay rates are slashed to pay for 'new deal' classroom assistants. Jane Marshall reports

A 17 per cent cut in pay for compulsory overtime has outraged secondary teachers.

Unions reacted angrily when the new rate was announced last month. But education minister Claude All gre expressed surprise at the criticism, saying he had announced the measure last November during the parliamentary debate on the Budget.

Typically, teachers have to teach for up to two hours more than the 15 or 18 per week stipulated in their contracts.

The rate for "annual supplementary hours" (HSA), which account for up to 90 per cent of the 800,000 extra hours worked by secondary teachers each year, will be cut by 16.9 per cent; the rate for the less common "potential substitute hours" (HSE) will be increased by 6.1 per cent.

The annual saving to the education budget will be about FFr700 million, which Mr All gre has earmarked for the recruitment of thousands of classroom assistants under the government's youth employment scheme. A similar scheme for schools in Wales was announced last week.

The unions have been demanding a cut in the amount of overtime worked by their members, and for the extra hours to be converted into permanent posts.

This explains the lack of hostility last November when Mr All gre announced his intention of reforming overtime regulations. But instead of extra jobs for new teachers, the number of compulsory overtime hours will remain the same, but teachers will be paid less. They risk losing between Pounds 150 and Pounds 400 a year under the new arrangement.

Mr All gre justifies the cut by arguing that HSA payments have been calculated on the basis of a 42-week year, whereas the number of weeks actually worked is 36.

But, the Federation Syndicale Unitaire union estimates that the overtime is equivalent to 45,000 full secondary teaching posts.

The unions are also angry that the minister has reduced the rate without removing the obligation to work the extra time.

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