One in 20 teachers will be affected if the Scottish Government and councils push ahead with plans to scrap conserved salaries, claims Scotland's largest teaching union.
For the 2,500 teachers liable to be affected, the loss of their conserved salaries would be like "falling off a cliff edge", said Drew Morrice, assistant secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland.
By moving from the conserved salary of a former principal teacher to that of a top-of-the-scale unpromoted teacher, a teacher could see his or her salary drop by a minimum of pound;4,300 to a maximum of pound;13,000.
Not only would teachers be hit by an immediate and significant reduction in pay, but they also stood to lose out financially on retirement, he said.
"If lifetime conservation is removed, it would disadvantage people in two crucial regards: it would impact on their pensions and, at a stroke, they would be earning less money."
The conservation of salaries was put in place for teachers whose posts were removed or changed under the 2001 teachers' agreement in a bid to make job-sizing more palatable.
It was also key to teaching unions' acceptance of the introduction of faculty structures in certain local authorities which wanted to place several departments, each previously led by a principal teacher, under the control of one faculty head.
That security of salary has now come under threat, however. The Scottish Government's budget deal with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) late last year agreed to re-examine teachers' terms and conditions. Proposals, yet to be ratified, include the removal of conserved salaries in exchange for local authorities freezing council tax, maintaining smaller class sizes in early primary and providing jobs for all probationer teachers
"Conservation was a crucial pillar of the whole 2001 agreement. Without it there would have been no agreement," said Mr Morrice.
He attacked Cosla and the Scottish Government for setting out a "shopping list" outside the official negotiating framework for pay and conditions, the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers.
"It is a matter of great concern to us that the other parties to the agreement now seek to cherry-pick what does not suit them."
Teachers were being asked to make sacrifices in terms of their pay and conditions in return for "vague promises on teacher staffing numbers", he said.
Mr Morrice did not rule out the possibility that an agreement could be reached but stressed that a complex set of discussions lay ahead.
"The EIS has an obligation to its members to tease this out through the negotiating process," he said. "We will look at the conclusion of these discussions before deciding a way ahead."
Edinburgh City Council estimates that it has 345 teachers on conserved salaries, costing approximately pound;400,000 a year.
Glasgow had 600 teachers on conserved salaries during 2009-10.
The authority had sought to reduce this number through early retirement, said a spokeswoman, and 100 had retired or were due to retire.
"This process will continue into 2010-11," she added.
Who would be affected?
- Teachers whose jobs were downsized during job-sizing.
Before the 2001 teachers' agreement (TP21), a principal teacher of classics running a relatively small department could have earned the same as a principal teacher of English in the same school running a much larger department. The job-sizing toolkit, introduced in TP21, would have led to a cut in salary for the classics PT, but lifetime salary conservation protected the PT's salary. That protection is now under threat.
- Principal teachers whose departments were subsumed into faculties.
In the wake of the teachers' agreement, some local authorities opted to set up faculties. That meant that a principal teacher of chemistry could have found himself or herself replaced by a science faculty head, in charge of chemistry, biology and physics. Councils who went down this route secured the support of teaching unions by agreeing to conserve the salaries of the principal teachers affected. This, too, is also under threat.
- Former assistant principal teachers or senior teachers would not be affected by any changes to conserved salaries, said Drew Morrice, assistant secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland. They are on "assimilated salaries" and therefore "outside the scope of the conservation arrangements".
In her early 50s and after almost 30 years in teaching, one teacher told The TESS she stands to lose pound;9,000 a year if conserved salaries are scrapped.
She is angry and worried. The proposal to remove conserved salaries will affect not just her family's lifestyle now - she has two teenage children - but also has implications for the future in terms of her pension.
"It's also been an emotional time," she said. "I feel isolated and singled out. It feels like they are picking off people in different categories. Up until now, the cuts have impacted on everybody. We all stand to lose management time, to have to do more absence cover and cope with increased class sizes. That was unpalatable but at least it was equitable. This feels like divide and rule."
The teacher, who has asked to remain anonymous, was a principal teacher of geography who had her salary conserved after her department was subsumed into a social sciences faculty. But she still runs geography, she argues.
"I don't chair a departmental meeting and I don't have a yearly review meeting with the boss, but other than that I still have a principal teacher's role."
Her colleagues, including the head of faculty, work very hard, she stresses. She blames decisions taken at national and local authority level for the position she now finds herself in.
"We fought the introduction of the faculty system, arguing it was a cost- cutting measure. Now we are being proved right."
- Original headline: Huge pay cuts in store if protection is revoked