TEACHERS WILL never be forgiven if they ditch a pay and conditions deal that far outstrips what is on offer in the rest of the public sector, the local authorities' chief negotiator has warned.
Danny McCafferty was speaking ahead of a crucial meeting today (Friday) of the Educational Institute of Scotland's executive council which is expected to confirm rejection of the employers' latest "final" offer, worth pound;200 million over three years.
Mr McCafferty echoed the remarks of ministers who are said to be "frustrated and disappointed" that after a year of talks there is still no agreement.
Peter Peacock, Deputy Minister for Children and Education, told a meeting in Shetland on Tuesday that he was still keen to see a settlement since it was in no one's interest to have demotivated teachers.
A consultation on the future of pay and conditions bargaining is likely if the Scottish Joint Negotiating Committee fails to strike a deal before it meets again next month. But the key decision lies with 45,000 EIS members who will vote in a union ballot over the next two weeks.
Mr McCafferty cautioned: "Teachers' leaders have got to be willing to show progress in terms of change. If they do not understand that, then the breaking down of everything they want is in their hands.
"We have met them on every issue to avoid that. They have to meet us. So far, we have done all the running, bending and compromising and we want to know what the teachers are going to give, not what they are going to take."
Council leaders say they have moved to meet many of the teachers' demands since the offer was tabled last March. Mr McCafferty acknowledged that money was less of an issue than conditions and stressed that the extra time allocated for social inclusion policies was now reduced to 50 hours a year and no more than two hours a week and would be included in the working year.
They were not additional hours and would not affect holidays. Some teachers could be asked to work at an Easter or summer school, for which they would have time off. There was no increase in workload and many of the social inclusion activities were already being carried out voluntarily.
Mr McCafferty believed that a critical factor in the unions' rejection was the division between the secondary sector and staff in nursery and primary schools. Pay and conditions would be "vastly improved" for virtually everyone, although he recognised the fears of secondary principal teachers that they would lose out.
Putting a different spin on the principal teacher reforms, he countered: "This will enhance their status, give them more say in the running of the school and give them greater opportunities to go forward. No one on a PT scale is going to be working any more hours for any less money."
Mr McCafferty said that some would be able to rise to a salary of pound;36,000 and still be active classroom teachers.
More than 3,000 principal teachers out of just over 7,000 would appear to be set to lose their positions under the reforms which would be phased in over several years. But Mr McCafferty said there was still a "mindset" that schools had to be line managed. A key element of the package was a reduction in promoted posts in secondaries.
Authorities argue there are substantial gains for primaries, with the eventual creation of 4,000 professional leader posts, the same number as in secondaries. Union pressure for changes to limits on composite class sizes had been rejected because of extra staffing and smaller classes in primaries.
He dismissed any further amendments. "The whole package is carefully balanced and if you start tinkering with one area, you bring down the dominoes."