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Speaking to UNISON’s national executive council on 12 April, general secretary Dave Prentis said,
“We learned a lot along the way, about campaigning, about getting parents and the electorate to support our members.”
The dispute was sparked by the employer cutting hours and wages of teaching assistants and other school staff in 73 schools. After 10 months, the union accepted Derby City Council’s offer, which includes compensation to staff who lost pay; a 52-week flexible contract from September; and a review of grades and job descriptions.
Derby branch secretary Nicole Beresford said the dispute showed that “if we come together, we can achieve what we want,” adding that the dispute succeeded because “we worked well with the region and head office”.
Another strength of the dispute, she said, was that it was member led – “the members organised themselves; we just facilitated that”.
During the campaign, the branch “went to every school and spoke to every one of our members about what they wanted to achieve”.
And as a side effect, the branch identified new stewards among the school workforce and recruited new members.
Mr Prentis added that the union will be using what was achieved in Derby in continuing negotiations taking place on a similar dispute in Durham involving 1,700 union members in the county’s schools.
The general secretary also said UNISON will be urging members to take part in a joint-union lobby of Parliament on 6 June over cuts to school funding.