Union has safety fears over MAT's plan to cut caretakers

Health and safety could be at risk in schools at one of the country’s largest multi-academy trusts if it goes ahead with plans to axe more than 130 caretaking and maintenance jobs, a union has warned.

Ormiston Academies Trust – which runs 38 primary and secondary schools across England – has announced plans to axe or relocate school support staff roles across its network, including those who carry out fire safety checks and deal with maintenance emergencies, according to Unison.

The public sector union says the trust has set aside “barely a month” to decide the future of staff and is urging it to pause its plans until a full assessment and proper consultation can take place.

Unison’s head of education, Jon Richards, said: “Time and time again, we’ve seen large organisations impose cost-cutting measures that sound good in the boardroom, but in the real world lead to poorer services, low morale, unemployment and, in this case, safety risks.

“Employees crucial to the smooth running of schools are being pushed out of their jobs so a trust, which paid its chief executive £184,160 in 2018, can save on the salaries of caretakers, maintenance workers and ICT staff.”

The trust is also proposing to cut a number of information and communication technology (ICT) jobs, with affected staff due to learn their fate just before Christmas, according to Unison.

More than 130 posts in schools across the East of England, East Midlands, North West, South East, West Midlands and Yorkshire and Humberside will be affected, the union says.

It says the threatened workers are responsible for conducting fire safety checks and ensuring fire alarms and escape routes are up to scratch.

They also carry out regular building checks to make sure they’re safe and free of hazardous materials such as asbestos, as well as dealing with maintenance emergencies which limit the disruption to teaching and learning in the classroom.

A spokesperson for Ormiston Academies Trust said: "Our Transforming Our Trust programme will enable us to do even more and make an even bigger positive difference to pupils, both inside and outside the classroom.

“As a financially responsible charity, which is absolutely committed to serving its pupils, we have opened a consultation on the current staffing and operational structures so that they are as efficient as possible while ensuring that the 29,000 children we support continue to receive the best possible educational opportunities.

“The process to date has of course included provision for the most robust health and safety standards going forward – nothing is more important than ensuring health and safety is of the highest standard, and that will remain the case. It is irresponsible and entirely wrong to even suggest we would compromise on this.

“No decisions on the future structure have been made because we are still in a consultation period with our staff and trade unions and we are very keen to hear the views of all interested parties – but we are very clear that any redundancies will be nowhere near what has been quoted.”

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