Teachers’ union reps in Bedford need more help to support stressed members, says official

A trades union official has asked for more support for education representatives in the borough.
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Deirdre Murphy, the Bedford district contact for the National Education Union (NEU), told a meeting on Monday that officials have been working “almost 24/7” supporting members during the pandemic.

She told the borough council’s schools’ forum that a joint letter had been sent from all the education trades unions in the borough asking for the issue to be raised.

All state maintained primary and secondary schools in Bedford borough paid the council £12,626 this year to cover the costs of staff to replace those people carrying out trades union activities.

Next year, the budget, called “facilities time” is set to rise to £32,833 following the inclusion of primary schools into the scheme.

The NEU describes facility time as time off from an individual’s job, granted by the employer, to enable a them to carry out their trade union role. They are campaigning for facility time which the union says is a legal entitlement and not a gift.

Ms Murphy said: “I think it’s a discussion that we do need to have about facilities time in general and how that’s broken down when the largest education union receives just over half a day. Ridiculous.”

She added: “Since March 2020 we have all been working at almost 24/7 in terms of supporting members, supporting the council, going to meetings.

Deirdre MurphyDeirdre Murphy
Deirdre Murphy

“I am speaking on behalf of all the trades unions in Bedford in terms of looking at extra time for the work that we are doing around covid.”

Ben Pearson, the council’s chief education officer, said: “It’s a conversation I’m very happy to have with you from here and agree the process.

“I’ve been meeting with all the trade union reps weekly throughout covid, now fortnightly, with HR and public health.

“We do recognise the massive amount of work they’ve done and we’ve all had to do to step up during covid.

“There is huge gratitude from me because I know the amount of work going in. I think this particular discussion we’ll take offline and then if we need to formally bring back to this forum we will.”