Budget cuts 'could mean mass exits for school support workers'
UNION leaders fear school support workers will leave in droves next year as budget cuts in Neath and Port Talbot begin to hit hard.
They said the workers — mainly women, often single mothers and all of them low-paid — had made so many concessions to save jobs they had nothing left to give.
Now Unison is calling on the Welsh Government to work closely with Neath Port Talbot and with other councils in Wales to help protect education jobs.
Earlier this week the Post reported that two dozen teaching and other schools jobs had been lost in Neath Port Talbot this year because of revised budget arrangements.
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An out of date formula for distribution meant some schools were getting just £3,000 per pupil while others had £9,000.
Because some schools inevitably lost out by having their budgets cut, the council provided financial support to soften the blow while they adapted to the changes.
Even with that support, just under 18 full-time equivalent teaching jobs have gone, along with more than 6.5 support staff jobs. Unison's Neath Port Talbot branch chairman Mark Fisher said: "The protection ends next year and I have major concerns about education in Neath Port Talbot.
"Members have given up everything. They have nothing left to give. If we have another round of potential cuts in school support jobs they are going to end up leaving in droves. "We are going to lose that expertise and the people who will suffer will be the children of Neath and Port Talbot."
Mr Fisher said support staff had previously agreed to have their contracts cut from 52-week to term-time only, and reduced their hours from 37 to part-time. Their pay had also been frozen for three years. He added: They're predominantly female staff, low paid, many of them single mothers.
"You keep on taking their hours and eventually they will be better off on benefits than they are in work. Once these experienced staff have left we will not be able to replace them and this will have a major impact on the children."
Neath Port Talbot has been working with unions to limit the job losses this year, and the council has said it will continue to do so.
Mr Fisher said Unison was also calling on the Assembly to work with local councils to minimise the impact on schools and maintain support staff jobs.
"Once they are gone we will never replace their skills," he added.