Preliminary ballot letter to support staff

Letter to support staff about the campaign to improve support staff pay and conditions and, in particular, the preliminary electronic ballots that ask them to indicate their willingness to take strike action in pursuit of these goals.


This is an important letter about the National Education Union’s (NEU’s) campaign to improve support staff pay and conditions and, in particular, the upcoming preliminary electronic ballots that ask you to indicate your willingness to take strike action in pursuit of these goals.

Please take the time to read it in full.

Last year’s deal of a flat-rate pay increase of £1,925 per annum may have been one of the best achieved in the public sector. But for nearly all of our support staff members, double-digit inflation meant that it still represented another real-terms pay cut.  Since 2010, average support staff pay has been cut by more than a quarter in real terms.

For the pay rise due to be implemented this April, the three recognised local government unions (Unison, GMB and Unite) have now submitted an above-inflation pay claim, for a £3,000 or 10% increase, whichever is greater. The NEU fully supports this claim, which would be a significant step towards repairing the real-terms pay cuts imposed since 2010.

For their part, the employers – the Local Government Association (LGA) – has said that it will consult local employers during March before responding to the union claim.

The NEU has written to the recognised unions to register our strong desire to work alongside them, in a General Election year, to ballot our members to address the funding of pay, jobs and conditions of service.

Now the recognised unions have confirmed their above-inflation pay claim, we will now consult our support staff members about their willingness to take strike action alongside the recognised unions in support of the claim.

This preliminary electronic ballot will open on Saturday, 16 March.

Alongside pay, the NEU will also campaign to tackle other problems facing support staff, particularly around funding and jobs.

You regularly tell us that support staff are expected to go over and above their contractual obligations to keep schools running. In particular:

• Job creep: You are expected to take on more and more work, and then find that you cannot complete all of your tasks within your paid hours.

• Grade drift: Duties appropriate to a higher grade have been shifted on to you, which are not then reflected on your job description or in your pay packet.

We also know that the evermore acute crisis in SEND provision is dramatically increasing the burdens on many support staff. There is now a £3.3 billion shortfall between Department for Education (DfE) funding and the cost of restoring the value of an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP) to its 2015-16 value in real terms.

All of these pressures have created a situation where, for the first time ever, we have a chronic retention crisis amongst support staff. Many of you have told us about colleagues who have left to start new jobs in retail and catering, where the pay is now better, and the working conditions and expectations are more tolerable – a reverse of the situation a decade or more ago.

So, at the same time we consult you about supporting the recognised unions’ pay claim, we will also ask you about your willingness to take strike action alongside your teacher colleagues to secure further school funding to fully fund pay awards, protect conditions of service and provide improved levels of staffing provision.

We can’t afford to do nothing

Our preliminary electronic ballots on both NJC pay and on jobs and funding will open on Saturday, 16 March. On that date, we will send all eligible members a voting link by email or text – please vote as soon as you receive the voting link.

We will use the results to demonstrate to Government, NJC employers and the recognised unions the strength of feeling amongst support staff and our resolve not to accept further detriment to pay, conditions and staffing.

For action to go ahead, at least 50 per cent of all those eligible to vote must do so, and at least 40 per cent of all those eligible to vote must also vote ‘Yes’. A formal ballot must be postal, so we need to take this time to make sure every member’s home mailing details are correct.

Please talk to colleagues and make sure they check and update their details here.

We hope that, ahead of a General Election, this Government has a change of heart and starts to address the funding crisis that is doing so much damage to our pupils’ education. That would also enable NJC employers to meet the recognised unions’ demand for an above-inflation pay rise in full. But, if not, we need to be prepared to do all we can to protect education and fight for what is fair.

Together, we need to take a stand

We cannot emphasise enough just how important it is for you to vote in the preliminary electronic ballot as soon as it opens.

If you would like to volunteer to help build the ballot or become an NEU rep in your school visit

Since the last election, your faith and dedication – including standing shoulder to shoulder with your teacher colleagues on many picket lines last year – helped us to win more funding for schools.

But, in 2024, we need you to stand firm again. Alongside Unison, GMB and Unite, we can win a fair pay rise for support staff. Alongside teacher colleagues, we can win further funding to protect support staff conditions and improve the levels of staffing provision.

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