TWO days of planned strike action by teachers in Wales next week have been called off with a new pay offer set to be put to members. Members of the National Education Union (NEU) in Wales were set to walk out on March 15 and 16 in a move that was set to cause widespread disruption.
On Friday (Mar 10) the NEU said planned action in Wales for those days would now not take place as “constructive talks” with the Welsh Government had resulted in a revised pay offer.
David Evans, the NEU’s Wales Secretary, told Herald.Wales in a statement: “We have had lengthy negotiations with the Welsh Government and sought clarity which we did not have a few weeks ago. That this is a fully-funded offer will be a relief to our membership. We remain disappointed that the minister was unable to make a cash offer for support staff but at least he is now acknowledging the workload challenges there.”
Dr Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney, joint general secretaries of the National Education Union, added: “We thank the Welsh Government for the constructive manner in which they have pursued a solution to the current dispute over pay. It is vital that we do all we can, together, to combat the recruitment and retention crisis and ensure that more people join the profession and stay in the profession. The Welsh Government recognises this and has also understood the importance of the pay offer being fully funded. In addition they have committed to working with us on tackling workload.
“This is in stark contrast to the behaviour of Gillian Keegan who is preventing talks in England. This week she refused even to talks at Acas. The NEU has said time and again we will enter negotiations. The talks can go ahead at any time – it is government who are declining and setting the preconditions, not the NEU.”
Responding to Mr Miles’ statement on the proposed pay and workload package for teachers in Wales Dr Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: “Teachers will be concerned that the offer to pay additional money to teachers now must be honoured without strings attached. Teachers have seen the value of their pay plummet and are struggling with a cost of living crisis that is not of their making. The minister’s offer to deliver an award to teachers on a without prejudice basis before the end of the financial year should mean that teachers will benefit from additional money today rather than empty promises of jam tomorrow.”
Neil Butler, NASUWT national official for Wales, added: “The minister must not seek to play fast and loose with the negotiating machinery that exists in Wales and must ensure that the role of the independent pay review body is fully respected. The minister had already agreed to a remit to the review body (IWPRB). That must be honoured.”
The full holding offer from Welsh Government is as follows:
- 5% already awarded (fully-funded)
- An extra 1.5% fully consolidated
- 1.5% one-off cash payment
- This makes a total consolidated increase of 6.5% and an in-year boost for the current year of 8%
- The money would be paid in April and backdated to September provided NEU Cymru pauses next week’s industrial action
- For the next academic year 2023-24 unions can continue the dispute or accept a new 5% offer compared to the original 3.5% offer
The full text of the letter from education minister Jeremy Miles to unions, seen by Herald.Wales is as follows:
I would like to reiterate my thanks for the constructive talks we have had over recent weeks.
By working together, we have made good progress in a number of shared priority areas. During our meeting on Tuesday 7 th March, it was agreed I would write to you setting out the government’s position regarding the 2022-23 pay offer.
I hope that you would recognise that our talks over recent months have been productive and our negotiations conducted in good faith. However, we are fast approaching the end of the financial year and the 17th March deadline for practically delivering a payment in this year. I am concerned we have not yet agreed a deal for your members and that pupils risk missing out on more days of school.
The government has previously offered an additional 3% pay increase, of which 1.5% is consolidated and 1.5% is non-consolidated. This would mean members benefit from an 8% increase for 2022-23.
Despite this offer being rejected by both NEU and Nasuwt, I am willing, as a sign of good faith, to make this payment to teachers as soon as possible. As you know, the funds which we have managed to identify for this financial year would otherwise be used for other priorities, so I am keen to make sure that they don’t become unavailable for teachers’ pay due to the absence of overall agreement.
In return for the payment of the 3%, we would ask for full strike action, currently notified for 15th and 16th March to be paused, so that negotiations can continue. It is imperative that whilst we work together to seek a full resolution, we should not place pupils, in particular those preparing for and sitting exams, under additional pressure of losing more school days.
In light of that, we would ask for a suspension until the end of the academic year or until meaningful discussions have ceased. For those teaching unions who did not reach the legal threshold, we would request the same in respect of not re-balloting members during that time.
This solution will allow teachers to receive a significant back payment during this cost of living crisis, but it is also in the clear interests of Wales’s pupils, especially as the exam period approaches.
I believe making a payment without reaching an agreement and a significant pause of strike action while we continue discussions would be a strong signal of good faith from all parties and one which crucially benefits pupils and teachers whilst we seek a resolution.
I would like to be absolutely clear that I recognise that, despite making this payment, we would remain in dispute with the relevant trade unions and that the payment would not imply acceptance of the offer.
Notwithstanding the above, I believe we have an opportunity to settle this dispute in order to deliver in the interests of learners and your members. I am therefore prepared to propose that the current recommended pay award for 2023 – 24 of 3.5% be increased to 5% with effect from 1 September 2023. This would be a decision made without the need to refer that award to the Independent Welsh Pay Review Body and I confirm that it would be fully funded. If this proposal is accepted, taken together with the commitments on workload, we would regard the dispute as settled.
I would like now for us also to start delivering on the workload offer we have worked on together. My previous letter set out what the package available is.
Some unions have sought further clarity on some aspects. I believe we can best address those points by engaging on the substantive workload issues set out in the letter rather than negotiating the wording of the letter itself. That will allow us to get on with making a reality of the proposals.
For the avoidance of doubt we confirm that we are progressing a variety of issues relating to the deployment of teaching assistants in accordance with the existing arrangements we have in place. On the ‘no detriment’ principle, I can confirm that should conversations in England result in an offer for teachers and leaders which is higher than any pay settlement in Wales, we would match the pay award.
Jeremy Miles, MS, Minister for Education and Welsh Language
Police launch appeal following theft of vintage military Land Rover
POLICE in west Wales have launched an investigation after a vintage military Land Rover was reported stolen from a property in Ceredigion.
The green soft top Land Rover was reported stolen from an address in Tregaron between 9.30pm on Monday, September 18 and 9am the following morning, September 19.
The vehicle is right-hand drive and it had a tyre on the bonnet. However officers are stating that this may have been removed.
The vehicle may have been driven out of Ceredigion and into neighbouring counties of Carmarthenshire or Pembrokeshire, police said.
As a result, Dyfed-Powys Police is appealing to anyone who may have a doorbell camera or dashcam footage to contact them on 101, https://orlo.uk/MOaRJ or [email protected] quoting reference 23000903316.
Alternatively, report anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
Ceredigion and north Pembrokeshire Westminster hopefuls selected
Early stages of the battle for the new Westminster seat of Ceredigion Preseli have started with the current Ceredigion MP launching his campaign in north Pembrokeshire.
Ben Lake – who has represented Ceredigion in Westminster since 2017 – kicked off his campaign at Crymych Rugby Club recently, outlining his priorities as Plaid Cymru’s candidate.
The new Ceredigion Preseli constituency joins parts of north Pembrokeshire – including Crymych and Maenclochog – with Ceredigion.
The new constituency takes effect automatically from the next scheduled General Election, following a Westminster vote to cut the number of Welsh MPs from 40 to 32.
After the launch, Ben Lake said: “My priorities were I to be elected as the Member of Parliament for Ceredigion Preseli are clear – a fair deal for rural communities, investment in infrastructure and increased funding for public services, and a thriving, sustainable economy that has the needs of communities rather than those of large corporations as its focus.
“I look forward to getting to know more people and communities across north Pembrokeshire over the next few months whilst also continuing to serve the communities of Ceredigion to the best of my ability.”
Liberal Democrat Mark Williams, formerly the MP for Ceredigion from 2005- 2017, is standing for his party in the same seat.
He said: “I too am looking forward to putting forward my Party’s message on the doorsteps of Preseli, and across Ceredigion, not least our measures to help people with the cost-of-living crisis, and promote the agricultural sector. There is a battle for hearts and minds across our new constituency, and I believe I have the energy and experience to win it.”
Welsh Labour recently selected Jackie Jones – who has been contacted for a statement- for Ceredigion Preseli.
As part of the constituency changes, other parts of north Pembrokeshire – including St Davids – are joining the new Mid and South Pembrokeshire constituency, which will replace parts of the current Carmarthen West and Pembrokeshire South.
Welsh Conservatives, who are in the unusual situation of having two sitting MPs in seats that are to disappear, have yet to make any selections for the new constituencies.
They currently have MPs Simon Hart and Stephen Crabb sitting – respectively – in the current constituency seats of Pembrokeshire South and Carmarthen West, and Preseli (Pembrokeshire).
Haverfordwest old library plans expected to be approved
PLANS by housing association group Ateb to move to Haverfordwest’s former library are expected to be approved despite concerns about a potential loss of parking and the relocation of an important piece of artwork.
The former library building in the town’s Dew Street has not been used since 2012, a replacement library is now sited at the former riverside market.
In an application before the October meeting of Pembrokeshire County council’s planning committee, W Lloyd Davies of Ateb Group seeks permission for a change of use of the 1960s building – designed by Pembrokeshire County Architect Gilbert Ray – to provide office accommodation, a communal cafe and ancillary community uses.
The application, which includes lettable office space, conference facilities and meeting rooms, is recommended for approval.
If permission is granted, Ateb plans to relocate the company’s headquarters from its current premises at Meyler House, St Thomas’ Green, Haverfordwest.
A report for planners says the applicant owns and controls an existing car park nearby with an indicated capacity of 126 spaces, the former library and Dew Street public car parks which are now operated as ‘pay & display’ parking.
Haverfordwest Town Council and residents have expressed concerns about the impact of development on existing parking provision.
The Dew Street Campaign, a local residents group, has submitted representations calculating a ‘worst case’ scenario suggesting that 70 parking spaces would be required to serve the development. The group has also suggested that there is potential for loss of the car parking provision to any housing development as it is controlled by the applicant.
The Head of Infrastructure – Highways indicates that it is likely that there is sufficient parking adjacent to the site to accommodate all of the proposed uses, the report says.
However, it is recommended that 27 spaces in addition to five proposed in the application are secured in a suitable layout to serve the development.
It is also recommended that efforts should be made to encourage active and sustainable travel modes to and from the proposed development in order to minimise the amount of personal vehicle use.
“The concerns of the Dew Street Campaign vis-à-vis potential housing development on the existing car parks is noted,” the report states.
“However, there are presently no applications for such development and in any event, the loss of available car parking provision would be a material consideration in the determination of any application should an application come forward.”
Another concern raised about the development is cultural.
The library building features a first-floor sculpture by David Tinker, an important and influential modernist sculptor and painter, designed to capture the light falling on the building, but it is proposed to move it where it will be less apparent to the public.
Officers are recommending a condition that requires a detailed method statement for the relocation of the Tinker sculpture.
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