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Pupil support assistants vote for industrial action over cuts

Highland Council
Highland Council

Pupil support staff who assist special needs children in Highland schools have voted for industrial action against controversial education cuts.

In a consultative ballot of GMB Scotland members, staff voted by a massive majority of over 93% against proposals for the re-deployment of 63 Highland Council support staff.

The re-deployment plan is part of a £700,000 cuts agenda for this year across support needs services in schools, with a further £1 million a year in budget reductions earmarked for 2020 and 2021.

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Local GMB representatives have said the undefined re-deployment plan could leave already hard-pressed staff faced with the prospect of unmanageable work-life balance changes.

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Senior union organiser Drew Duffy said: “GMB members have overwhelmingly rejected their employer’s stealth cuts plan for the future of additional support needs delivery in our schools.

“For years our members have been working longer and harder with less resource and for less pay in real terms; a challenging working environment isn’t getting any easier and these proposals are the final straw for many staff.

“We warned the council their plans were unacceptable and ignorant of the realities of employment within the Highlands region, never mind running roughshod over any work-life balance commitments of our members.

“When an employer attempts to impose a flawed process that’s driven by cuts and not consultation, they cannot be shocked when the scale of rejection against them is so significant.

“Our message to the council is clear: Listen to the voice of your staff and our members – step back from these proposals and let’s talk about the future of service delivery together to avoid the real possibility of industrial action.”

Last week the Press and Journal revealed that support staff would be balloted. More than 400 or the 1,100-plus Pupil Support Assistants are represented by the union.

Highland Council budget leader Alister Mackinnon said at the time: “It is important to have the right staff in the right place to meet the identified levels of needs.”

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