Union to protest against Medway Council holiday pay offer

payA trade union has organised a demonstration against Medway Council’s “derisory” offer in an ongoing dispute over holiday back pay.

The GMB said a protest would be held on Thursday (24 February) outside the full council meeting of the Kent authority.

The union has long been pursuing compensation for members at several councils that it claims have miscalculated the annual leave entitlement of term-time staff. These workers are on 39-week contracts but paid over 52 weeks, leading to wrangling over their holiday rights.

A Court of Appeal decision in 2019 established that many school staff are entitled to full – rather than pro-rata – holiday pay regardless of how many weeks they actually work in a year.

A union spokesperson claimed Medway Council had offered staff in the region of two weeks of wages to settle the dispute in the borough. But this offer lies “well below the rate offered by neighbouring councils for the same thing”, according to the GMB.

Members are being balloted until 4 March on whether to accept the offer, with the union claiming workers appear “strongly in favour of rejecting”.

Meanwhile, a demonstration is planned to take place from 6pm on Thursday outside the council meeting in Chatham.

GMB regional organiser Mick Simpkin said: “We’ll put this offer to members, but GMB’s view is that it is not enough.

“Medway Council needs to address historic underpayments to low paid, predominantly female staff employed in their schools. Failure to reach a satisfactory settlement could leave the council open to sex discrimination claims at an employment tribunal.”

He added: “In the heart of Dickens country, the council needs to have a bit of self-awareness, offering such a miserly and Scrooge-like compensation package in these hard times.

“We would encourage all members to come along to our friendly demonstration and show management how you feel about their offer, with children of course welcome.”

Medway Council said it had been in talks with unions for some months.

A spokesperson said: “We have worked closely with local educational leaders across Medway to establish a group of employers who wish to compensate workers with up to two weeks’ pay.

“We are awaiting the result of the GMB consultative survey. However, we understand that there are many members of staff who would like to accept the offer.”