Teachers overwhelmingly reject ‘final’ pay offer as Swinney digs his heels in

By Bill Heaney

Teachers in West Dunbartonshire are on the verge of walking out of local schools on strike.

This follows Government rejection of their claim for a ten per cent pay rise.

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) and Scottish Secondary Teachers Association (SSTA) warned of industrial action if the government’s offer is not improved.

The government and councils had offered a headline three per cent hike, with bigger increases for staff on lower grades.

Council body Cosla said the unions’ demand for a 10 per cent increase could not be met in a single year.

Swinney 2Education Secretary John Swinney, pictured right, said he was disappointed by the rejection of a “strong and fair” offer.

The teaching unions claim the real value of teachers’ pay has fallen by 20 per cent over the past decade, and that a big rise is needed to boost recruitment and retention of staff.

In Dunbartonshire at present the morale amongst teachers is said to be at its lowest ever ebb and more and more retired teachers are being called in to cover for fed- up colleagues who have called in absent, mainly through stress.

Last month tens of thousands of teachers marched to George Square in support of a “fair deal” that would “value teachers”.

The education secretary has said the current offer would give the majority of staff a rise of between five per cent and one per cent once restructuring and pay progression were factored in.

The EIS said 98 per cent of members who voted rejected the offer, with a turnout of 74 per cent. In the SSTA ballot, 97 per cent rejected the deal, on a 73 per cent turnout.

EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan said: “Today’s near unanimous rejection of the pay offer is a landmark result, one of the strongest rejections of an offer in EIS history, and one which is indicative of the current mood of Scotland’s teachers, increasingly agitated on pay but angry also at excessive workload, mainstreaming on the cheap, and austerity driven cuts to resources.”

SSTA general secretary Seamus Searson said the vote sent a “strong message” to the Scottish government.

He said: “It is time for government to return to the negotiating table and treat teachers with respect and seek a meaningful settlement.”

A third teaching union, the NASUWT, said survey of more than 1,000 of its members suggested more than half were willing to take industrial action in support of the claim.

The unions said they hoped to make progress through negotiation, but the EIS warned it could ballot for industrial action in the New Year if an improved offer was not made by Christmas.

Gail Macgregor, resources spokeswoman for Cosla said: “The trade unions claim for 10 per cent increase in one year cannot be met within the resources we currently have available.”

Conaghan, Mason and McColl – no comment from them.

Neither Laura Mason, the Chief Education Officer, nor Cllr Karen Conaghan, the education committee convener, would comment to the Dumbarton Democrat. We are banned from asking them questions.

Council leader Jonathan McColl operates the same ban and boycott, but his SNP colleague, Mr Swinney, who is also the deputy first minister, said: “This was the best pay deal in the UK for 2018-19, so it is disappointing that teachers have rejected what I believe was a strong and fair offer.

“All teachers on the main grade scale were offered at least a 5 per cent annual increase, with some receiving up to 11 per cent in conjunction with their annual progression.

“I am pleased there will be further talks and we will engage positively with the unions and with Cosla to seek to strike a pay deal.”

School staff take to social media to air their grievances

Teachers on the march for their ten per cent pay claim.

Teachers are on the horns of a dilemma. To strike or not to strike, that is the question.

This became obvious tonight as they turned to social media to air their concerns and grievances.

Willie Campbell, son of the late Ian Campbell, the Dumbarton MP, said: “A Director of Education of my acquaintance once told me that a teachers’ strike would be manageable but a work to rule would be a nightmare.”

He added: “The 35-hour week was put into the teachers’ contract during the post-McCrone negotiations at the behest of the government.

“Seems to me that a disciplined insistence on working for 35 hours and no more would be sustainable in a way that strike action wouldn’t be – and if coupled with not doing the things in Annex E which “should not routinely be done by teachers”, such as photocopying and routine clerical tasks, it would make life very difficult.

“As to having parents onside, I’m afraid I tend to the cynical view they’d be much angrier if strike action meant that teachers weren’t looking after their children for 25/27.5 hours per week!

“I’m remembering the targeted action from the 1980s when we all supported teachers in Tory constituencies – maybe the EIS should just shut all of the schools in Swinney’s constituency until a resolution is found, funded by a levy on the rest of the profession?”

There are no comments on social media from teachers in West Dunbartonshire who have been told to stick to the Pravda-like rules imposed on all council staff here. Keep quiet … or else.

Rachel Dornan said she did not think parents would initially notice a 35-hour work to rule – “If their children kept coming to school every day and seemed to be doing some work then I’d imagine they’d be happy enough. However, not doing things like photocopying & admin just means you shoot yourself in the foot and make the hours you do spend in class much more stressful.

“Plus, at the end of a work to rule, you’d spend weeks working huge long days to catch up on what you’d not got done previously.”

Willie Campbell replied: “Arguments on both sides. Clearly the campaign would have to cover the arrangements for the period after peace returned.

“My guess is that this will be a marathon rather than a sprint, and however the EIS organises it, the action has to be sustainable.

“There’s a limit to the number of days pay teachers can afford to give up, whereas in a work to rule you’re doing your job and so are paid.

“Glad I wasn’t asked as a Head Teacher to decide what my staff should do during their 35 hours and what to leave undone.”

There was sympathy for the teachers from Phil Brown who said: “I agree entirely Willie except, possibly, for your suggested action because teachers are their own worst enemy. They won’t let the education of the children be affected and often a work to rule will have very little impact because, ultimately, the work gets done anyway. The only effect a work to rule might have is to alienate parents, probably through inaccurate reporting by the press.

“I remember the pay disputes that you mention and it always seemed to me that teaching unions and teachers sought to take action that had the least impact except to their own pay packet. Sadly, in my opinion, teachers are on a hiding to nothing. They deserve far more for the nonsense they have to put up with – from disruptive children, some ignorant parents and administrators who are out of touch with the real world. I wish them well in getting fair reward for the impossible job they are expected to do.”

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