Jodie MallierNEU workplace rep
“I first became aware of the pay issues in Coventry when a fellow member came to me with her payslips, upset that she had been underpaid at M6.
“Initially, we assumed there had been an admin error but, after speaking to the local branch secretaries, we learned that it was a city-wide problem and needed to be challenged immediately. My first step was to approach the head teacher with two affected members, and the general feeling was that the local authority (LA) had advised this approach and nothing could really be done.
“The turning point for me came shortly after at our local reps training day, when we were given advice and support on how to tackle the issue effectively, and most importantly, other reps and the secretaries were there to provide encouragement.
“We really felt that this had to be a larger co-operative campaign across the city, so I returned to school and immediately called a members’ meeting.
“The strength of NEU membership in our school meant that although only a handful of staff were affected, all 15 members were prepared to back each other and work together. One teaching assistant even stated that she was prepared to take industrial action to support her colleagues.
“We voted unanimously to send the NEU letter to the head teacher who immediately took it to the governors and, within three days, we were told that they had agreed to pay the upgrade.
“Needless to say, all members were thrilled, and we all felt it was proof that a strong and powerful union group can have amazing impact. It strengthened our relationship with the head teacher too, who respects our position, and it also set a precedent with other local schools, so that all our pay is now equal.
“It demonstrated that, despite what may be advised locally or nationally, we can work together with our leadership team to achieve positive results, and I know that our head teacher really values the support provided by the union to her staff. As a result the campaign, we have even gained new members in school too!
“The success of the wider campaign has been inspirational for us all, and I have spoken to other reps about our approach, and we all agree that this is a victory for collectivism.
“Members were prepared to support each other unconditionally and, by taking a stand, we have shown that we are not prepared to allow attacks on our profession and working conditions, which is essential in the current political climate.
“This could not have been achieved by one or two teachers alone, it required the whole union group to stand together, and the amazing support of all at Coventry NEU enabled us to push forward.
“This autumn I would encourage all NEU reps, members and branches to get involved in the national fair pay for all campaign, so that all members receive the pay increases, pay progression and pay scales they deserve. Get involved and see the model resources here: www.neu.org.uk/pay .”