July 2008 Archives
Posted by The Herald on July 24, 2008 12:21 PM
LAST week the Herald exclusively revealed that classroom assistants' salaries could be cut by 25 per cent as Gwynedd Council tries to force them on to the same contracts as other local government workers.
The move will affect around 700 staff, working in schools across the county, and will mean, a de-facto pay cut of £3,800 on average which includes the loss of six weeks paid summer leave.
The figures are eye-watering, considering the average annual salary for these workers is just £14,500.
The big unions such as Unite and Unison plan to fight this proposal which could mean a wave of industrial action forcing some schools to close from September onwards unless a compromise is reached.
The proposal has sparked fury, not just with assistants, but amongst teachers, headteachers and school governors.
Since the 60s, classroom assistants terms and conditions have been linked to those of teachers - both are contracted for 32.5 hours a week over 39 weeks per annum.
However the teachers terms and conditions are agreed nationally in Whitehall whereas the assistants are paid by local authorities.
According to Gwynedd Council the assistants terms and conditions are "unique" and need to be reviewed but staff and unions would argue that they are identical to their colleagues in the classroom - albeit that the council, as opposed to the government, pick up the tab.
The question one might ask is would the council, government, or anyone else propose this kind of settlement to teachers?
Is it the case, that with 700, relatively low paid, mainly female workers - it is a fight the council believes it can win?
The move to slash assistants' salaries is perhaps an unforeseen consequence of the UK wide equal pay review, where councils across the UK have been forced to pay out billions for the historic underpaying of, mainly female workers such as dinner ladies, cleaners and care home workers.
In Gwynedd, the council needs to make of a saving of £1m to help pay for the workers in this region who were underpaid.
Surely it is beyond irony that the council intends to plug that gap by slashing the salaries of yet another group of relatively low paid, mainly female workers - the region's classroom assistants.
Posted by The Herald on July 22, 2008 3:33 PM
INSPIRATIONAL can be a word bandied around a bit too easily but there is no other way to describe Gareth Roberts.
Five years ago the Deiniolen man was given just weeks to live yet there he was last Friday, five years on preparing to march 75 miles to Chester from Caernarfon along the old Roman road in just three days to raise around £5000 for the British Heart Foundation and the Air Ambulance.
In between times he has survived a quadruple heart bypass, swapped careers to become an aerial photographer and fathered son Gwyn, his first child three years ago.
The 46 year old is also now the "fittest I have ever been", which is just as well, as covering 26 miles a day on foot is, well, no mean feat.
And that's where the inspirational part comes in again, as on Friday, at some ungodly time in the morning - 7.30am to be precise - Gareth had managed to persuade; cardiac patients on the verge of a major operation, actors, Alun Ffred Jones AM, friends, supporters and the Herald, actually me, to join him on route.
I joined in for the Caernarfon leg of the journey which takes around two hours, from the Segontium to the Gors Bach pub in Llanddeiniolen.
But as we set of so early there was no chance for a quick, refreshing pint, at my journey's end - thanks for that Gareth.
There around eight of us taking part for that stretch, marching through muddy fields in a typical Caernarfon summer morning - cloudy and wet.
As for the Roman "road" itself, all I can say is - it has seen better days, probably around AD 400 - the last time the Imperial Italians bothered filling in a pothole or two.
Apparently the road, or stretches of it, can be seen clearly from the air according to Gareth and he has photos to prove that.
On the ground it is a different story to the untrained eye.
I managed to make out parts of it running across a farmer's field and pointing in the direction of an Iron Age hill fort.
Gareth however marvelled at the living history running across his own backyard.
There was a glint in his eye as he described the number of people using the route around 1600 years and the ingenuity of the engineers in keeping it straight and pointing it at existing landmarks, just like that hill fort.
All I could see was a few old stones and a bit of a bump in the grass.
Then again If I hadn't had to get up so early in the morning I might have been more in touch with my historical side.
Although to be fair to Gareth I don't imagine in the year 3608 there will be many inspirational fundraising trips along the A55.
Posted by The Herald on July 15, 2008 4:19 PM
THE countdown to the annual Faenol festival has started, with Wales' best known opera star Bryn Terfel holding a press conference this morning.
The lineup again this year is a glittering one, with performances from Boyzone, TV star John Barrowman - who seems to be on everything these days - and jungle queen Cerys Matthews.
Opera buffs can delight in hearing Diana Damrau , Nadia Krasteva and John Botha.
This morning Bryn Terfel said something which struck me as very interesting - he said that he hoped the Tan y Ddraig concert will be a chance for families to get together, to see old friends and reminisce under a backdrop of the soundtrack of our youth.
He told me he has very fond memories of seeing bands like Maffia Mr Huws at Pesda Roc and Twrw Tanllyd at Bethesda, back in the day.
He described it as 'being let loose in Bethesda and enjoying a few beers'.
This made me think, which are our most memorable musical experiences - the small, sweaty, noisy gigs of our youth or seeing some big names at Y Faenol or Wakestock.
From my personal experience, seeing Van Morrison at Y Faenol a couple of years ago was an absolute joy; but even that pales into insignificance as I remember the rush of Super Furry Animals at Pesda Roc and my friends and I having to walk home to Bangor afterwards or camping at Porthmadog rugby club after the first Miri Madog.
I'm sure many people in this area can remember when they first heard Bryn Terfel himself honing his skills on village hall stages and at small eisteddfodau in his younger days. Does it bring a smile to your face as you can say 'I was there when...'
No-one can dispute that having major musical talents perform on our doorstep in rural Gwynedd is a fantastic thing, but don't forget the small yet vital concerts and gigs which are a stepping stone not just for our own home grown talents, but also for the next generation of music lovers.
This page contains an archive of all entries posted to The Herald in the July 2008. They are listed from oldest to newest.