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'End the pay talk panto';Educational Institute of Scotland's annual general meeting;Conference

PAY NEGOTIATIONS

Neil Munro and David Henderson report from Perth on the Educational Institute of Scotland's annual general meeting. Angry delegates vented their frustration on issues such as pay, conditions, morale and workload.

THE LENGTHY discussions on the pay talks to date was a re-run of the special meeting in March.

Critics, led once again by John Dennis from Dumfries and Galloway, called for the Millennium Review discussions to be abandoned in favour of the union pursuing a straight 8 per cent pay claim without strings.

The leadership, led once again by Malcolm Maciver, the salaries convener, said the agenda of the review talks could not be wished away and to do so represented "the trade unionism of despair".

The spectre of the Government's implicit threat to abolish the bargaining machinery of the Scottish Joint Negotiating Committee hung over the proceedings. But Mr Dennis said the talks were "a ludicrous farce".

"They are a pantomime in which the management says this is their final offer and we say 'oh no it isn't' and they reply 'oh yes it is.' Meanwhile the black knights of the NASUWT and the SSTA woo our members by appearing to take a harder line," he said.

But Drew Morrice, a salaries committee member, dismissed other unions for "grandstanding".

Answering charges of weak leadership, Willie Hart, convener of the finance and general purposes committee, said members were looking for a lead but the opponents of continuing discussion "would leave the union in a shambles with no policy". If there was no agreement by the end of August "it's action for the 8 per cent claim", Mr Hart said.

The August deadline, just 30 working days away, was part of an emergency motion from the executive council to assuage fears that the talks could drag on endlessly.

The motion, which was passed overwhelmingly, also called for a ballot on industrial action if there is an "unsatisfactory response" to the 8 per cent claim, any attempt to abolish the SJNC, or any unilateral changes to conditions.

Mr Maciver commented: "If we have to take on the Government, so be it. But we do not seek confrontation."

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