Belfast Telegraph

Friday 1 August 2014

Board backtracks to make sure classroom staff get holiday pay

Hundreds of classroom assistants will receive their holiday pay next month - after the Belfast Telegraph highlighted a blunder which could have left them waiting up to seven weeks.

Earlier this week it emerged the South Eastern Education and Library Board had written to teaching support staff informing them that it would be September 2 before payments were made - a week after they return to work.

However, after the blunder was highlighted by this newspaper, a series of meetings were held by the board and yesterday it emerged the problem has been resolved.

In a statement to the Belfast Telegraph yesterday, the SEELB said: "Following a number of meetings which the chief executive had this morning with staff from the payroll, human resources and finance departments of the SEELB, arrangements are being put in place to ensure that affected staff will receive a payment on August 5 as originally scheduled.

"Should there be any remaining balance this will be paid to staff on September 2."

Its chief executive, Stanton Sloan, said he had cancelled leave to sort out the matter.

"People not getting paid is a serious matter and I treat it very seriously," he said.

"I am endeavouring to have the matter resolved and to make a payment to staff by August 5."

The chaos was sparked when the board's human resources department sent out letters after classroom assistants discovered the error.

The letters advised recipients that "due to unforeseen circumstances" the payment of term time annual leave would be delayed.

It added: "Please accept our sincere apologies for any inconvenience this may cause."

The SEELB's chief administrative officer Nicky McBride, who was aware of the blunder, was on annual leave in Calgary, Canada, when the Belfast Telegraph contacted him.

Trade union Nipsa, which represents many of the classroom assistants, had said people relied on the payments to pay mortgages and bills.

"The board's attitude that classroom assistants will have to wait until September 2 for money they are entitled to is not good enough," a spokesman had said.

The shambles was brought to the attention of Education Minister John O'Dowd, who described it as "totally unacceptable".

Factfile

Classroom assistants provide educational support and care of pupils in schools. The starting salary for a classroom assistant working 36 hours a week is around £12,000. However, it is higher for those who work with children with special educational needs. There are more than 7,000 classroom assistants in Northern Ireland.

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