Learning Support Assistant role: Racism and unfair contract

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jan78
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Mar 8 2017 22:30
Learning Support Assistant role: Racism and unfair contract

Hi there,

I need some advice as I am working currently in a school as a learning support assistant. I started at the same time as two other girls and I was appalled to find out that they are on longer contracts than me - theirs finish at the end of August and mine finishes when the next term of school finishes, at the beginning of July. Therefore, they get paid for the summer holidays, and I won't, and we are doing the same amount of work overall. People can be on different length contracts but I don't think this is a normal case because we have the same number of working days. They get basically more holiday.

I asked my bosses about it and they said it was to do with the decision to hire me coming after the other two girls first. The thing is since the school is an academy and pay roll is organised by the 'trust,' rather than the school itself, I'll need to go through them (on the advice of one of my colleagues). I have now contacted the PA of the head of the trust, and now am waiting to hear back from her.

I've been advised to join a union but I'm not sure which one to join.

I'd also like to add that I am one of two employed BME staff at the school and I am on the lowest salary in the school. The school also has an issue with institutional racism and I am part of a team headed by an external group of BME women from the local council to combat it in the school.

jef costello's picture
jef costello
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Joined: 9-02-06
Mar 8 2017 22:50

In terms of unions ask around to find out if the reps are any good. I joined the NUT but the help was due to an excellent rep as much as the union.

Most LSAs I know aren't paid during the holidays (don't mention that to management) but you're right to fight for it if others are getting it.

if that's your real name in your username then we can change it, it's not a good idea to keep it up there. There are quite a few posters on here in the education sector who will have more useful advice .

Good luck.

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Ed
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Mar 8 2017 23:07

Hey, just quickly, LSA's (or any non-teaching staff in schools) can't join the NUT. I do a similar job to you and I'm in Unison, which imo is the best/least worst of the support staff unions (though it varies wildly how active/organised your branch is). I guess they'd be your best bet in terms of getting some kind of support offline.

About payment during holidays, what usually happens is you get 39 weeks (i.e. term-time only) and that is spread throughout the year, so you're paid during the holidays but only for the term-time work. Situation in this case seems different as you're on a fixed-term contract finishing in July, right? Sadly, I'm not particularly knowledgeable on this stuff tbh, especially not with academies, but someone else who posts regularly here is a Unison rep who works closely with a lot of school workers so hopefully they'll have some thoughts.

Last thing, I'd echo jef's comment about changing your username, as if those details are correct then that's a lot of fairly identifiable info and schools may not appreciate being 'brought into disrepute' like that. Let us know if you want to change it and we'll do it asap.

jan78
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Mar 8 2017 23:08

Thanks so much for the response. I'll look into it.

Yes, could you please change it...i'll give you free reign because i can't message you for some reason.

jan78
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Joined: 8-03-17
Mar 8 2017 23:13

Thank you for the advice smile this is all great

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Steven.
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Mar 8 2017 23:30

Hi, you can now send private messages, so please let me or Ed know what you would like your name to be changed to.

So a couple of things here. At the very least you have to be paid for the holiday you are entitled to. So if by July you haven't been able to take the holiday you should be paid for then you should at least get additional pay to cover this.

On the contract duration, basically they are screwing you. In the borough where I work, schools basically have a local agreement with the union that contracts will last until the end of the summer holidays, so people always get paid over the summer holidays. I don't know if there would be a similar agreement where you are working, so I would join the relevant union (either Unison or GMB: Unison is the least bad in nearly all cases) and ask to speak with the schools convener, to see if there is such an arrangement in place normally.

If the union rep is no help I would check back here! Good luck with this

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A Wotsit
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Mar 9 2017 09:11

Hey jan, welcome to libcom!

Does anyone know if equal pay, or discrimination/ equalities legislation covers the holiday issue?

I have the impression people can legally be employed on different length contracts for the same job, but it should be on equivalent terms... so you should get a ratio of number of holiday days: number of work days which is proportional to your colleagues.

So for your contract T&C to be equal they could either give you more paid holiday between now and the end of your contract (so that the ratio of holiday to work days is the same as your colleagues averaged over the contract length) or they could extend your contract to equal that of your colleagues.

If the area you work has a similar agreement to where Steven works you'll hopefully find out from the Union and they should make the trust stick to it. If not you can still fight for equal paid holiday.

On the institutional racism- first thing I'd recommend is keeping a record of any incidents you witness or are reported to you in a diary and start making connections with sympathetic colleagues (who can be trusted not to side with management/ downplay racism) who might support any future actions to challenge racism at your workplace.

Keep us posted and good luck!

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commieprincess
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Joined: 26-08-07
Mar 9 2017 10:28

Hi Jan,

So sorry to hear about this! I used to do a similar job and was really shocked how much both casual and structural racism there was at one of the schools I worked in.

I would definitely echo the others in saying that in my experience GMB were completely useless and Unison were more helpful. Do you know if the other support staff are in a union?

Also, have you had a chance to compare your contract with the other two staff on the longer contracts? If they're the same except you don't get a holiday and they do, then that's definitely some fishy bullshit.

Steven and others are probably more knowledgeable about this, but if you don't have any luck sorting it out while you're there, perhaps you can at least put a claim in for unpaid holiday time when you leave?

Good luck!

jan78
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Mar 19 2017 10:00

Hi there,

Thanks so much for all your great advice, it was really helpful and now I've joined Unison, so hopefully they will prove to be of some assistance in the future.

UPDATE:
After haranguing senior management, they decided to extend my contract. They obviously realised that they were doing something wrong, especially with me being from a BME background and my contract being unequal

My contract was shorter than my colleagues that started at the same time as me, and we would have been doing the same amount of work days only for them to get paid more holidays.

I'm really glad that I won an equal contract but we are still on very low pay and there is still an issue with institutional racism and other bullshit aspects of the job such as hostile or unsupportive management.

Thanks smile

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Steven.
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Mar 19 2017 12:08

Hi, that's great news about the contract!

In terms of low pay, unfortunately that is a big problem for school support staff, who are of course disproportionately female. That sort of thing can only be fought on a collective level. And in that regard there are couple of inspiring struggles going on at the moment, by teaching assistants in Derby and Durham. The workers in Derby have been on all-out indefinite strike for some weeks now. This is a good short video about them: https://www.facebook.com/ReelNews/videos/10155103151409605/

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commieprincess
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Mar 19 2017 18:15

Glad to hear it, Jan!