Teachers could strike over pay and conditions
Teachers have signalled they could take strike action unless the action is taken to increase pay - with union chiefs demanding urgent action from government.
The EIS, Scotland’s largest teaching union, is to mount a campaign to restore teachers’ salaries to the values set out in the McCrone agreement on pay and conditions.
The union’s annual general meeting (AGM) in Perth backed a motion saying failure to reach a deal on this would result in them balloting members on industrial action - including strike action - that could hit schools in the academic year 2018-19.
Larry Flanagan, EIS general secretary, said the “soaring workload” teachers have to deal with, together with “recruitment challenges” facing the profession meant that teachers must be paid “an appropriate level”.
As the issue was debated, Helen Connor, the EIS salaries convener, said: “We’ll be out on industrial action if we don’t get action on pay.”
Members at the AGM passed a motion instructing the union to “prepare a campaign to restore salaries to the values of the McCrone settlement, based on inflation figures, and to negotiate on this basis for next year’s pay settlement”.
It added: “Failure to reach agreement would result in a ballot of members, to begin a campaign of industrial action including strike action, from the start of the academic year in 2018-19.”
Mr Flanagan said: “Today’s AGM has sent out a very strong message to local authority employers and the Scottish Government that action needs to be taken to address declining levels of teachers’ pay.
“Following more than a decade of declining pay, real-terms pay cuts and pay freezes, the mood of teachers is hardening. The soaring workload facing teachers, combined with the recruitment challenges facing the profession, highlight the need for salary levels to be addressed to ensure that teachers are paid at an appropriate level.
“Today’s votes on pay and potential industrial action highlight that this issue must be addressed urgently by local authorities and the Scottish Government.”
EIS members also unanimously backed a motion which “condemns the recent decision of the Scottish Government to tender for new approaches to ITE (initial teacher education) which would bypass universities”.
The Scottish Government is spending £1 million on ways to attract people into teaching and plans to put a new initiative out to tender aimed at attracting top graduates in priority areas and subjects - but sparking fears from some that a “fast track” approach could reduce standards.
Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson has already urged First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to consider bringing in the Teach First scheme, which is already running in England and trains graduates before putting them in classrooms.
EIS education convener Susan Quinn, said: “Any tendering process which might potentially consider involving an organisation such as Teach First will be opposed by the EIS until it is defeated.
“The EIS is not opposed to alternative pathways into teaching - we are opposed to shortcuts which would impact on the high standards of our teaching profession. The suggestion that we can put someone in the classroom after five weeks of training and still raise attainment is simply absurd.”
The emergency motion was seconded by Helen Connor, from the union’s North Lanarkshire branch, who said: “The reason why the Scottish Government is tendering for an alternative route is because their own workforce planning and teacher recruitment policies have failed.”
Incoming EIS president Nicola Fisher said: “Teach First means just that - teach first and then toddle off elsewhere to get a bigger salary doing something else. Retention routes are very low.”
She added: “We already have a faster route into teaching in Scotland - it is called the PGDE, which lasts for a year. We don’t want to be any faster than that. You wouldn’t allow a doctor or a dentist loose on you after five weeks of training, but apparently it’s alright when it’s just children’s minds that you are dealing with.”