Strike threats as education staff pay rows rumble on … and on …

Clydebank Collefe from Titan

West College at Clydebank from the Titan Crane. Picture by Bill Heaney

By Bill Heaney

Some members of staff at the Scottish Qualifications Authority may be on strike at the time of the summer exams.

But First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says she is determined to get things back to normal before anything like that happens.

She said constructive discussions should continue to reach a resolution.

“The Deputy First Minister who met the SQA’s chief examiner sought assurances that the SQA is taking all appropriate measures to ensure that the exam diet is not disrupted. We will continue to monitor the situation closely.”

Asked what contingency plans were in place, the First Minister said: “An annually updated contingency plan is in place to respond to any scenario that might pose a risk to the qualifications system.

“Of course, we want to ensure that that contingency plan is not required, and that should be our focus.

General Assembly of the Church of Scotland 2018“It should be noted that the proposed ballot at the SQA is of a relatively small number of staff—about one in 10 of its roughly 1,000 staff.

“That said, industrial action would not be in the interests of young people, so I urge the SQA and the unions to continue their discussions to reach a resolution. We will remain in touch with the SQA on the matter.”

On the wider issue of teachers, Ms Sturgeon, pictured left,  said the pay offer to them currently is the best offer that has been made to any group of public sector workers not just in Scotland, but anywhere in the United Kingdom.

She added: “The offer is for teachers’ salaries to increase in April by a minimum of 9 per cent compared with current salaries.

“I hope that, in the near future, we can reach a resolution to that dispute as well, because it is not in anybody’s interests for there to be industrial action in any part of our education system.”

Dumbarton and Lomond MSP Jackie Baillie, pictured below right, spoke at Holyrood immediately after pay talks between Colleges Scotland and the Educational Institute of Scotland broke up with no improved offer from the employers on the table.”

She added: “There is now the very real prospect of further strike action over the coming weeks that will affect colleges across Scotland, including West College Scotland, which covers my constituency.

Baillkie Jackie 101“Does the First Minister agree that the pay claim made by college lecturers is entirely in keeping with the Government’s public sector pay policy? Will she therefore instruct the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills [John Swinney] to take a, perhaps, less passive role, to ensure that a reasonable settlement is reached soon, which is something that he has done in the past?”

The First Minister hit back: “The Government does not take a passive role in any of these things, but we do respect negotiations. I would hope that, as someone who I am sure would describe themselves as a trade unionist, or trade union supporter, Jackie Baillie would also respect collective bargaining and on-going negotiations in a particular sector.

“As for the college lecturers, I certainly hope that we can get people back round the table and that a resolution can be reached.

“This dispute is about a cost-of-living pay uplift over and above the harmonisation increase, which, on average, saw pay increases for college lecturers of 9 per cent over three years.

“However, the EIS and the Further Education Lecturers Association view the cost-of-living uplift as distinct from the harmonisation deal, while employers obviously take a different view.

“Again, I encourage them to get back round the table to reach a resolution that is in the interests of not only lecturers but students across the country.”

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Our Lady and St Patrick’s High School in Bellsmyre. Picture by Bill Heaney

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