A ROW has erupted over new contracts one Bradford academy trust is asking its staff to sign, with a union claiming the changes are “contrary to the Trust’s Christian values”.

Bradford Diocesan Academies Trust, which runs 17 primary and secondary schools across the district, has come under fire from unions for the new contracts given to staff. Various teaching unions have seen 200 employees come forward to express opposition to the contracts they have been asked to sign.

The National Education Union said the new contract reduced staff’s existing rights, including reduced sick pay in some circumstances, reduced notice periods and deductions for unpaid leave increasing.

The union said staff serving probationary periods could be dismissed at the end of the period without notice under the new contracts.

The unions have said they fear the national terms and conditions for teachers have been breached, and more detrimental changes could follow.

A spokesperson for the NEU said: “It is really disappointing that it has come to this.

“It will be hard for BDAT to continue to describe itself as the employer of choice if it does not offer the same terms and benefits as other schools.”

One staff member told the NEU: “We are the ones who make BDAT happen and uphold BDAT’s values day to day in the classrooms, corridors and courtyards.

“Without us BDAT would not happen. This is truly unfair and contrary to the MAT’s Christian values.”

Six months of negotiations have been taking place between unions and BDAT through ACAS, but the talks recently broke down as the unions could not agree to the changes in sick pay. GMB, NAHT, NASUWT, NEU and Unison are advising their members not to sign the new contract. ASCL are asking their members to contact their organisation for individual advice.The Trust is part of the Church of England Dioceses of Leeds. Staff are looking to meet the Bishop to express their anger.

The trust runs Belle Vue Girls’ Academy, Bradford Forster Academy, Buttershaw Business and Enterprise College, Christ Church Academy, Clayton St John C of E Primary, Cullingworth Village Primary, East Morton C of E Primary, Immanuel College, Oxenhope C of E Primary, Shipley C of E Primary, St John’s C of E Primary, St Oswald’s C of E Primary Academy, St Philip’s C of E Primary Academy, The Academy at St James, Westminster C of E Primary Academy, Woodlands C of E Primary School, Wycliffe C of E Primary.

The Trust issued a statement saying: "BDAT is a charitable Trust. We have been consulting with all unions and staff since September regarding some proposed changes to contracts. This has been brought about by the need to address the reducing contribution in real terms to the money contributed by the Government. The issue of real terms cuts to school funding has been widely reported in the press.   

"The vast majority of union and staff concerns have been addressed throughout the consultation. No staff member is losing any pay and the Trust has already committed to honouring all funded pay awards to staff. We are not considering a whole-scale move away from national terms and conditions for teachers or non-teaching staff.

"In order to retain control of future unfunded pay-rises set out by the Government, and to minimise potential future redundancies, the Trust has proposed some changes to staff terms which will ultimately protect jobs and ensure as much money as possible is retained by the schools to provide good quality education for our students in the classroom.  We believe that such an approach is truly in accordance with our Christian ethos.

"The proposal complained of by the NEU will affect less than 1% of our staff but could save the Trust around £500,000 per annum - the equivalent of up to 20 jobs.   Minimum notice periods for teachers are being increased (not reduced) from two months to three months. We are looking to reduce sick pay in very limited circumstances where staff who go off sick during a disciplinary or capability process may receive reduced sick pay (however they would still receive at least 13 weeks’ full sick pay).

"BDAT had hoped to resolve these few remaining concerns with Unions through an ACAS process and we had thought we were near agreement following a helpful proposal made by the NEU, which the Trust felt was broadly acceptable. Unfortunately the talks broke down as the other Unions felt unable to accept the approach to management of sick pay.

"The modest changes BDAT have suggested will help to avoid future redundancies and ensure staff are treated consistently. They will help to protect jobs and ensure we continue to provide an excellent education for pupils. Our aim is not to treat our staff in a less positive manner than in other schools but to proactively look to safeguard staff jobs for the future during this period of financial austerity’.