Teachers union general secretary argues Scottish Government underspend could settle pay claim “with cash to spare”
THE EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTE OF SCOTLAND (EIS) is confident of both a large turnout and an “overwhelming rejection” by its members of the latest pay offer from the Scottish Government and COSLA, ahead of the opening of a ballot on the matter tomorrow (30 October).
Speaking to CommonSpace, EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan noted the success of the EIS’s National March and Rally in Glasgow on 26 October, one of the largest single trade union actions in Scotland in recent years, while expressing his assurance in the outcome of the ballot, which will consider industrial action.
Flanagan said: “Following the overwhelming turnout on Saturday, with 30,000 teachers marching through the streets of Glasgow, we are confident of a large turnout in the ballot and an overwhelming rejection of this divisive offer.”
“Following the overwhelming turnout on Saturday, with 30,000 teachers marching through the streets of Glasgow, we are confident of a large turnout in the ballot and an overwhelming rejection of this divisive offer.” EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan
The EIS is calling for a 10 per cent increase in teacher pay, in order to restore the value of their salaries after the immiserating effects of the public sector pay caps. A previous offer of a 3 per cent rise was rejected last month, which would cover all but the highest paid teachers, and would increase the pay of some grades more than others.
Speaking at the National March, EIS president Alison Thornton said: “The salaries of teachers in schools in Scotland are below the European average and those of other countries in the wider world.”
However, despite the enormous turnout on Friday from teachers, union activists, parents, children and other sympathisers, the Scottish Government’s position does not appear to have shifted from that articulated by Scottish education secretary John Swinney, who stated: “I firmly believe this is a generous and fair offer which demonstrates the value both the Scottish Government and local government place on the teaching profession.”
This view was cemented by finance secretary Derek Mackay, who told BBC Politics Scotland on Sunday: “We’ve set out a proposal to teachers as part of the tripartite negotiations.
“I recognise the pay restraint that people have endured but we have to give a pay settlement that’s also affordable so we can protect our public services and properly remunerate all our public servants.” Finance secretary Derek Mackay
“I think it fits with the deals that we’ve come to so far, stepping away from the pay cut – the 1 per cent pay cut – and I think it’s fair and affordable to ensure we can keep investing in our public services.
“I recognise the pay restraint that people have endured but we have to give a pay settlement that’s also affordable so we can protect our public services and properly remunerate all our public servants.”
Responding to Mackay’s remarks, Flanagan told CommonSpace: “The Scottish Government, and Scotland’s local authorities, must start listening to Scotland’s teachers and supporters of Scottish education. Austerity is a political choice, and one that must end.
“Other countries across Europe have been increasing teacher pay over the past decade, while Scotland has delivered a decade of real-terms cuts to teacher pay. The Scottish Government must commit to funding education – it’s number one priority – properly, including a commitment to a fair pay deal for all of Scotland’s teachers.
Flanagan added: “We should note, also, that Mr McKay has just banked £192 Million of Scottish Government underspend - that money would settle the teacher pay claim with cash to spare.”
“The union has built this campaign around the SNP's own headline-chasing rhetoric about education being their 'number one priority', demanding that the government now back up the big talk with hard cash.” Scottish teacher and writer James McEnaney
Commenting on the National March and the following developments, the Scottish writer and teacher James McEnaney told CommonSpace: “I was particularly struck by the 'Pay attention, John Swinney' placards at the weekend which, I think, speak to a particular issue for the SNP - that John Swinney is seen as being unable or unwilling to listen to serious criticism.
“Given his response to the P1 testing debacle, and the attempt to undermine trade unions with regards to this particular pay deal, I wouldn't be surprised to see more being made of this in the coming weeks and months.
“The overall tactic, though, looks both simple and effective: the union has built this campaign around the SNP's own headline-chasing rhetoric about education being their 'number one priority', demanding that the government now back up the big talk with hard cash. As Joe Biden famously said: "Don't tell me what you value. Show me your budget, and I'll tell you what you value."
The EIS ballot opens tomorrow, and will close in three weeks.
Picture courtesy of Shelter Scotland
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