Council apology to 4,000 staff

South Lanarkshire has been forced into a humiliating climbdown after admitting revised contracts were wrongly issued to 4,000 teachers. Education officials were ordered by Pat Watters, the council's personnel chairman, to abandon the exercise only days after sending out standard forms inviting teachers to accept amended conditions.

Mr Watters accepted it was "an administrative cock-up" but insisted the council will press ahead with changes to disciplinary and grievance procedures, the source of a long-running dispute with the teachers' unions.

The Educational Institute of Scotland is poised to take both South Lanarkshire and Edinburgh to industrial tribunals over the contract amendments. Argyll and Bute has also told teachers changes will depend on the outcome.

Mr Watters said teachers were sent a form that is normally only issued to new members of staff. "I am unhappy about the whole situation. The format that went out to teachers was wrong. It was an error," he said. The council is writing to all teachers apologising for the mistake and sending details of the new disciplinary and grievance procedures.

Mr Watters said talks with the unions had gone on for 18 months and interim agreements had been extended twice. The education committee in August decided to make the final break. "We have no intention of having a go at teachers. We are trying to treat everyone the same. When we came into power we had six different grievance procedures and six different disciplinary procedures and we have had to get some rationale into this," he said.

Bill Ramsay, the EIS's local secretary, hailed the retreat and the decision not to force teachers to sign new contracts. "We welcome the recognition by the council that this whole exercise was unnecessary and stressful for its teaching staff," Mr Ramsay said.

But the council's willingness to enforce changes would ensure the EIS continued with its legal test case.

Ken Wimbor, the union's assistant secretary, commented: "What a way to run a council."

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