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School staff in strike ballot over job cuts

Strike ballot: School staff at Ladywood primary, Grimethorpe, to vote on industrial action.
Strike ballot: School staff at Ladywood primary, Grimethorpe, to vote on industrial action.
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Support staff at a Barnsley school are to be balloted over strike action over plans to make its nine ‘dinner ladies’ redundant.

The plan is remove the jobs of all nine school mean supervisory assistants at Ladywood primary school in Grimethorpe, who make up a team of almost 20 support staff which also includes teaching assistants, with some of those expected to take on lunchtime supervision duties instead.

The trade union UNISON is fighting the proposals and over the summer its members at the school will be balloted on whether to reject the plan and take industrial action when the school re-opens after the summer holiday.

Unison has now written to Barnsley Council, the affected staff’s employer, informing them of its intention to ballot staff. Barnsley Council has not commented on the situation.

According to Unison, the school’s management initially argued that teaching assistants who will perform lunchtime duties under the new proposals have specialist skills to deal with challenging children during the lunch break, leaving the dinner ladies no longer needed.

However, the union claims it has challenged that and has now been told the job losses are necessary to save money, with a saving of £23,625 proposed.

Reductions to working hours and non replacement of staff have gone a long way to achieving that, the union claims, with further costs also expected in salary hikes for the staff who would take on extra duties.

UNISON Yorkshire & Humberside Area Organiser Jordan Stapleton said: “Our dinnerladies have been at the heart of the local community supporting children for generations. They are long-serving, dedicated women and it’s shocking to suggest they are no longer needed.

“It’s also completely unfair and unreasonable to just expect the TAs to pick up the duties of the dinnerladies – they are stretched enough as it is. Above all else our members are concerned with how this will affect the children.

“The plans simply don’t add up. If the dinnerladies are made redundant the TAs can’t provide the one-to-one support the headteacher wants because they’ll be supervising all 210 pupils. And we do not believe the school has to make these cuts for financial reasons because the savings, and more, can be achieved elsewhere.

“Strike action is always a last resort for our members but the school’s refusal to hold talks and reconsider has left us with no other option,” he said.