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ESF pay cuts

This is one issue that doesn't look as if it is going away. According to today's SCMP:

English Schools Foundation teachers have voted to withdraw goodwill, including extra-curricular activities, in their fight against a proposed pay cut of up to 10 per cent. Teachers' representatives held six hours of talks with management this week but failed to agree a compromise, according to David Reeves, chairman of its staff association.

Results from ballots held in all ESF schools prior to last week's annual foundation meeting have now been counted. "The ballot was for the withdrawal of good will and not doing lunchtime, after-school activities and all the other sorts of things done in teachers' own time," Mr Reeves said."In some schools it was almost 100 per cent in favour of action, in others fairly near."

The teachers are not convinced by the arguments for the pay cut, and are concerned that there will not be an equivalent reduction in the school fees charged to parents. They are also upset that the ESF won't let them put their case to the parents - who, so far, don't seem to be supporting the teachers:

Parents reacted with dismay to teachers' decision to boycott their children's extra-curricular activities. Nury Vittachi, chairman of Kennedy School's Parent Teacher Association, said: "It is the families who will get hurt rather than the paymasters."

Nick Bilcliffe, another Kennedy parent, said: "This is ludicrous. It is premature, it is petty, it is not thought through. They are going to lose parental support. Parents will be less tolerant of what they perceive to be a well-paid group of teachers who do not understand the wider economic realities."

The problem for the ESF is that they are under pressure from the government to cut costs, and there is a risk that if they are not seen to be taking action then the "subvention" paid by the government could be reduced. In Monday's SCMP, Jake van der Kamp commented on the results of the study by the Pay Review Body that looked into ESF teachers salaries and which concluded that:

When considering the comparative data, which included such indicators as contact hours, teacher/student ratios, extra curricular commitments, it became very apparent that the base salaries of ESF teaching staff were at the top of the top quartile, not only when compared to teachers in Hong Kong schools, but worldwide. Furthermore, the margin of differences between the pay levels of ESF teachers and those of other teaching staff within the top quartile was such that the basic pay could be reduced by up to 10 per cent whilst still preserving the ESF's top position.

Somewhat provocatively, Jake suggested that if the teachers did not accept the pay cut, then the Secretary for Education and Manpower should reduce the subvention paid by the government to the ESF (which accounts for about 28% of the ESF's income). In response to this, there's an interesting letter in today's SCMP, from Tim Hoffman, Chairman of Island School (an ESF school):

Three years ago I led a task force to reduce the cost of staff benefits. Following extensive and very useful consultations with the teachers, we implemented a significantly reduced package that saved parents and taxpayers tens of millions of dollars a year. The staff welcomed this as equitable, and good for parents, the government and the future of the ESF.

The current situation is the result of a breakdown in communication and trust between the executive committee and the staff. The data justifying the pay cut has not been adequately explained to the staff, and because that data contains, inevitably, some errors and omissions, it has thrown the validity of the whole process into question.

This seems to suggest that the problem lies with the ESF management. Perhaps the anger of the teachers is not directly related to the pay cut, but is more to do with their dissatisfaction with the way that the organization is run. A new chief executive is due to be appointed early next year, and it has been suggested that no decisions should be made until that happens. That seems like the best option at this stage.


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