IMPACT ballots SNAs for industrial action

Barry Cunningham
“Our objective in balloting our SNA members on this matter is to gain an absolute commitment that the announcement of SNA allocations is made in sufficient time to allow a smooth transition to the next school term,” – Barry Cunningham, assistant general secretary, IMPACT.

IMPACT trade union, which represents almost 8,000 special needs assistants (SNAs), has issued ballot papers on a motion for industrial action. The ballot was in response to the Government’s failure, for the fourth year running, to announce SNA allocations before the end of the 2017 summer term.

The ballot of SNAs is for industrial action, up to and including strike action, to achieve:

  • A guarantee that, in future, SNA allocations will be announced in sufficient time (no later than May) to allow the Supplementary Assignment Panel – and distribution of available hours to serving staff – operate to full effect
  • Arrangements in respect of job security on a par with teachers and other public servants
  • An agreed procedure for dealing with SNA grievances and issues (including proposals to resolve or refer to an agreed process all outstanding cases).

The ballot was issued to IMPACT members by post over the weekend, and concludes on Friday 13th October.

The SNA allocations establish the number of SNAs that are allocated to individual schools each school year.

IMPACT assistant general secretary Barry Cunningham said the lengthy delays to their publication every year since 2014 means SNAs don’t know if they have a job to return to in the new school term.

“The delay may also leave them unable to apply for redeployment in the event that they don’t have a job. There’s no practical reason why the schools cannot get the figures in April or May, so that they can plan for the new school year in a dignified, effective and timely way.

“The habitual failure to do this simple thing, which means so much uncertainty for our children and their schools, also means that SNAs don’t know if they have a job to return to each year. That it happens every year shows contempt for SNAs, and for the children, parents and schools they serve,“ he said.

Barry said IMPACT will no longer accept the protracted delays in the announcement of SNA allocations. “Our objective in balloting our SNA members on this matter is to gain an absolute commitment from the Department of Education and Skills (DES) and the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) that the announcement of SNA allocations is made in sufficient time to allow a smooth transition to the next school term.

“It’s become difficult to obtain meaningful engagement from the department on a range of issues affecting SNAs. This is reflected not just in the delayed allocations, but also in the inferior job security and the failure to conduct normal industrial relations. We want a process and procedures equivalent to those that operate for teachers. This is well within the Government’s capacity to deliver,” he said.