Union slams request to join sacrificial pay cut

18th February 2011 at 00:00
Local authority says it was `morally obliged' to ask for 2% of salaries to help save pound;1m

A teaching union leader has dismissed as "out of the question" a request that teachers sacrifice part of their salaries to help a local authority balance its books.

NUT Cymru director David Evans spoke out after Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council asked teachers to consider donating 2 per cent of their annual pay to help save pound;1 million.

Mr Evans said he opposed the proposal as there was no guarantee that it would save teachers' jobs. "This wasn't a viable request by Neath Port Talbot," he said.

"Local authorities are facing difficult times and are looking at the best ways to save money, but this was an unusual, completely off-the-wall request.

"They can't seek to worsen at a local level what has been agreed nationally. It's out of the question as far as I'm concerned."

Neath Port Talbot received a 1.8 per cent cut in funding from the Assembly government this year and has to find pound;1.9 million of savings from its education budget alone.

After negotiations with trade unions, about 7,000 council staff have agreed to donate 2 per cent of their salaries, and education chiefs said they felt "morally obliged" to ask teachers to do the same.

However, although councils are entitled to enter into local agreements with their other employees, teachers' pay is set at a UK level and councils are bound by statute to pay the full amount.

Neath Port Talbot education director Karl Napieralla told TES Cymru that the pound;1 million saved from teachers' salaries would have been ring-fenced for schools.

"With that fund we were confident we could have avoided compulsory redundancies for one year," he said.

"I'm trying my best to protect schools. Although I couldn't say 100 per cent for certain there wouldn't be redundancies, that fund would have given us some breathing space."

Neath Port Talbot is the sixth highest-spending local authority in Wales in terms of per-pupil funding.

Last year it spent pound;115.7 million on education, or pound;5,802 per pupil - 3.7 per cent higher than the Welsh average.

In 201011 it plans to delegate 76 per cent of its education budget to schools, slightly higher than the Welsh average of 75 per cent.

Mr Napieralla said that, despite the financial difficulties his department was facing, he would seek to maintain the levels of per-pupil funding and increase delegation rates in line with the national agreement between the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) and the Assembly government.

The NUT and other teaching unions have now entered into negotiations with Neath Port Talbot to help the situation by offering other options for consideration, such as teacher redeployment, early retirement packages and voluntary redundancies.

Mr Evans said he hoped other local authorities would not follow the council's lead in asking their teachers to sacrifice pay.

"It's going to be a very problematic year for schools throughout Wales," he said.

"We want to work with authorities as much as possible to avoid compulsory redundancies."

WLGA education director Chris Llewelyn said: "Every local authority is looking at imaginative ways of making ends meet. Neath Port Talbot, like other local authorities, is balancing its financial situation, and continuing to deliver services is going to be difficult."

  • Original headline: Union slams request for teachers to join council's sacrificial pay cut

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