Independent Media Centre Ireland

Classroom Assistamts denied democracy

category armagh | worker & community struggles and protests | news report author Saturday December 01, 2007 17:44author by ,

Are the ballots rigged?

Having fought their way through weeks of attacks by their employers/Sinn Fein/DUP, Classroom Assistants yesterday faced another barrier to a just settlement of the ongoing job evaluation dispute. Employers linked up with UNISON and GMB to outvote NIPSA and T&G and to force a rotten deal through the Joint Negotiating Council for education.

Education Boss Caitroina Ruane made repeated calls for NIPSA Classroom Assistants to hold a ballot on the rotten deal but when Classroom Assistants offered to do so they where denied the opportunity to hold a ballot and the unjust settlement was forced through instead. The other unions, UNISON and GMB have insisted that the majority of Classroom Assistants have voted for the offer but have not released any accurate figures for their ballots.

Angry Classroom Assistants have called for a public inquiry into the ballot procedure and are demanding that the membership figures for each union are released.

The ICTU intervened in the dispute to broker an inter-union agreement which would have tied Classroom Assistants hand and foot. This extraordinary and historic document is attached.

PDF Document Who would accept this? 0.75 Mb

Comments (11 of 11)

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author by Erin go Braghpublication date Sat Dec 01, 2007 23:01author address author phone

Just read the attachment there.
Unbelievable that such a thing could happen in the Trade Union Movement.
Brings me back to the days of Thatcher, and by heck, those were sad and bad days.

It seems that some full time officials will go lower than a rattle snakes private parts!

What are the unions real numbers across the Education Boards?
Are NIPSA really holding the lions share here, or is there bluffing going on?

Would be interesting if the truth was to get out, and if Classroom Assistants were to expose the treachery of the smoke and mirror skullduggery they have had to endure.

NIPSA's Classroom Assistants have fought a great and clean fight, and that has been to their loss, hope some of their leaders go hammer and tong at the SCAB SCUM!

author by press office - gmbpublication date Sun Dec 02, 2007 15:40author address author phone 07921 289880

For the record this is the full text of the statement issued by GMB on Nov 30th 2007 on this matter


At the Joint Negotiating Council (JNC) meeting this morning the employers offer to classroom assistants of 28th September and 4th October 2007 was accepted by the trade union side of the JNC by two unions in favour to one union against and one union abstaining. This brings to an end this matter which has gone unresolved for 13 years. the unions that voted in favour have called on the employer to ensure that the lump sum element of the offer worth £15 million to the 7,000 classroom assistants is in their pay packs before Christmas (see note 2). The trade unions now want to move on to review with the employers the role and function of classroom assistants in the new education world of today. The unions also want to see progress on job evaluation in respect of school cleaners and vehicle maintenance staff employed by the education boards. The unions also want to see a comprehensive reivew of the pay structure of catering staff in education.


Notes to editors:
1 GMB secured a four to one vote in favour of the offer when it balloted 1,570 callroom assistant members. Unison achieved a similar vote in favour when they balloted their members.
2 The new agreement is in 3 parts as follows:-
Regrading: Approx 50% of existing staff will be upgraded at a cost of £3.5m per year and up to £25m will be paid in back pay back to1995.
Hours rationalisation: The employer has agreed that an additional £15 million will be paid as a one off lump sum to all existing classroom assistants by way of compensation to existing staff for an hours rationalisation for new staff. 3,195 classroom assistants with less than 5 years service will get £1,614 and 3,629 above 5 years will get £2,479.
Pay Protection: No existing members of staff will be required to work additional hours or be required to change their hours of work or their times of work. Existing members of staff not upgraded will continue to receive their current hourly rates for their current hours of work. All existing staff not upgraded will continue to benefit from future pay increases. In addition, the special needs allowance will also be fully protected for existing staff and again, staff will see an increase in this allowance in line with future pay increases.:

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author by solidarity seekerpublication date Sun Dec 02, 2007 23:18author address author phone

So glad you have carified the position GMB press office. I notice you are still claiming 1570 classroom assistants. I have seen the figures for union membership in the NEELB and the BELB, GMB don't have 200 members in those two boards, you only have a handfull (if that) in the SEELB. So do you really expect anyone to believe you have 1300 in SELB and WELB! Come back to earth will you and come clean on how many CAs you really have.

author by CApublication date Sun Dec 02, 2007 23:22author address author phone

Why does the GMB membership figure for GMB keep changing didn't I hear Mr Coy state on the Nolan Show that they have 2500 now in this press release they claim 1570.

How many Classroom Assistants members has GMB? Can they prove it. Will they clearly state, did the majority of CA's vote for this offer as UNISON claim?

author by CApublication date Sun Dec 02, 2007 23:28author address author phone


SDLP MLAs John Dallat and Patsy McGlone said they are very concerned at what looks like sharp practice by the employers’ side in the classroom assistants dispute following the appearance of their spokesperson, Helen McClenaghan, at the Public Accounts Committee yesterday.

Mr Dallat said: “Ms Mc Clenaghan is chief Executive of the Southern Education and Library Board. I asked her directly whether the five boards would allow time for NIPSA to conduct a ballot rather than trying to impose their settlement. She was somewhatevasive, saying she could see no reason why time would not be allowed, but her answer seemed to be an affirmation. I pursued the matter and asked her again whether time would be allowed, and she said she had noted our position. In all I gave her three occasions to give a straight answer to a straight question.

“So I was stunned to say the least when I heard this morning that the employer’s side in the Joint Negotiating Committee had forced a vote on their settlement proposal of 28th September. Helen McClenaghan was the one who slammed NIPSA earlier for not holding a ballot and who commended the other unions for doing so. The other unions were allowed to hold a ballot in their own time. Why not NIPSA?

“This is bad industrial relations practice and indeed sharp practice, but the much more serious question arises of whether a deception has been practised on the Public Accounts Committee. I find it hard to believe that the employers’ spokesperson is not a party to the employers’ negotiating strategy. It is my intention to raise this again at the PAC and if necessary request that Ms McClenaghan appear before it again.”

Patsy McGlone said he could verify that the Committee was left with the clear impression that the employers would not impede the NIPSA ballot which they had long and loudly called for.

“If there was any intention known yesterday to wrong-foot the union at this morning’s meeting, that would amount to misleading the Committee. We saw the ballot as a very positive step in leading to a solution, but now it appears the employers have forced this dispute back to where we don’t want it to be, on the picket line.”

author by Roguepublication date Sun Dec 02, 2007 23:48author address author phone

I must point out a few mistakes in the GMB's press officer's statement. The education and Library boards don't claim to employ 7000 classroom assistants, so I don't see why the GMB seem to think they do. Though claiming they represent 1570 CAs shows the GMB's general problem with getting figures right. However this isn't the biggest mistake in the statement. They go on to say, the matter is brought to an end. This is not only a mistake it is really wishfull thinking of the highest order. If the GMB think that the majority of classroom assistants are going to roll over and die on this one then they have another think coming. If they also think that decent and REAL trade unionists are going to let last Friday's treachory pass un-challenged, then not only are they guilty of wishfull thinking they are out of touch with reality all together.

author by Erin go Braghpublication date Mon Dec 03, 2007 16:56author address author phone

Have the GMB boiler makers union and Yes-ison/Uselessison no idea of the treachery they have wreaked?

What sort of person who calls themselves a trade unionist would stoop to such a depth?

I hear that a Unison Official was more interested in a cream bun and a cup of tea, than Classroom Assistants job evaluation bach in the LRA in July?
Can anyone confirm this?

The GMB favoured boyo, just why did he leave Manchester in such a cloud of smoke? I hear he left there quicker than the road-runner can say "beep-beep".......
Can anyone shed light on this?

I am almost sick right now at the thought of these stinking, rotten, scabby, scummy, dirty, evil, vile people having the brass neck to try selling this tripe to classroom assistants.

GMB press officer, just why did you ballot a technician in St Malachys HS Castlewellan?
Why did you ballot a caretaker in Longstone Special School?
Why did you ballot canteen ladies in other Special schools?
Why did you ballot two women in Shimna College, a schoo, outside of the Boards, they are not part of this agreement?
And, to add insult to injury, then have one of the ladies from the above school on TV selling this, even though she will never be party to it?
You mislead and tell lies?!?!?!

author by Jimmy Hoffa - teamsterspublication date Mon Dec 03, 2007 21:19author address author phone

The GMB claim they now want to look at the plight of cleaners, technicians, drivers, and canteen staff. Well they have already balloted them, as they balloted all of their members working in the education field. Their blurb claims to have balloted CALLROOM assistants, read it, which just about sums them up. They had that few they forgot what they were called.

I believe they had 30 classroom assistants at the outset of the strike call, and most of those have since deserted to NIPSA.

NIPSA are hardly a well known militant union, so if they are on strike you know there is something very badly amiss.

author by Kath - Classroom Assistantpublication date Wed Dec 05, 2007 14:00author address author phone

Gmb have 43 members in the Belfast board and why did they ballot integrated schools when this doesnt affect them as their job evaluation comes from their school not the board.

author by Mary B. - Classroom assistantpublication date Wed Dec 05, 2007 15:01author address author phone

Fair play to the sdlp,their the only ones in the assembly that seem to support us.I am a Unison member but with my four other workmates will be leaving them for nipsa if they will have us.John Corey is the only union leader anyone trusts now,he led the way and the other unions should have followed instead of letting the employers away with this.

author by Solidarity Seekerpublication date Fri Apr 18, 2008 14:11author address author phone

I suppose I shouldn't be suprised, but for sheer arrogance and self congratulatory nonsense, Mr Eamonn Coy of GMB must "Take the Biscuit"
Quote from Mr Coy.
"When I took responsibility for looking after the interests of all our members employed within education less than a year ago, I gave clear commitment to end the dispute on belhalf of the Classroom Assistants and secondly to end the dispute on all of your (cleaners)behalf's. I think it is fair for me to now say that the proof of the pudding is in the eating! In that our union the GMB has now secured both these objectives.
Let's look at what Mr Coy has achieved.
Classroom Assistants jobs have been devalued, they can now officially start as the lowest paid workers in education. Even those assistants who have been evaluated at a higher rate, will get a fraction of the back pay they deserve thanks to good old Mr Coy's interventions. Let's not forget the "Wonderful" pay protection deal that GMB and UNISON greatly lauded has less than 11 months left to run and maybe then we'll see the "Proof of pudding" When the classroom assistants see their terms and conditions getting another shafting.
It is worth also remembering the GMB has 250ish classroom assistant members out of 4500 unionised classroom assistants so how he could possibly feel he had the right to negotiate on behalf of classroom assistants is beyond me.
On the matter of the cleaners it is true he was on the panel supporting their claim. (What a pit he couldn't of shown the same committment to the classroom assistants) However this appeal process was instigated by UNISON so how he can claim total credit is somewhat strange.
However I suppose when you are dealing with such massive egos nothing should suprise us anymore!!

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