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Long peace on pay may be over;Conference;Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association

David Henderson reports from the SSTA's conference in Aviemore on the growing mood of militancy

Teachers in secondary schools have warned education authorities that they face national industrial action for the first time in 14 years if they fail to revise their pay and conditions offer.

Leaders of the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association won unanimous backing at the union's annual conference in Aviemore last weekend after condemning the employers' final offer as unacceptable and unworkable. A ballot on action will be organised if the offer is not improved.

Alan Taylor, the association's salaries convener, described the package as "largely incoherent and totally unacceptable".

There were major concerns about control of the 35-hour week, workload, lack of middle management posts and any promotion structure, and the removal of guidance structures. Salary levels proposed were "poor".

Mr Taylor said: "The proposals would not work in schools, would do nothing to raise teacher morale and would be detrimental to learning and teaching."

David Eaglesham, the union's general secretary, said the offer was "dead in the water" and described the attitude of Elizabeth Maginnis, former leader of the local authority side, as "gratuitously offensive".

Mr Eaglesham said that the employers had the money in their budgets and should respond immediately to demands for a straight 8 per cent rise.

John Gray, Aberdeen, said the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities should accept responsibility for "bringing the education service to the brink of crisis" and called for an end to "macho" management.

Graham Souter, Aberdeenshire, said teacher goodwill was under threat. Teachers already worked on average more than 50 hours a week.

Members must be prepared to strike and make a financial sacrifice to ram home their message, another delegate warned. "I'm sorry folks, that's the bottom line," Peter Wright, West Lothian, said. Teachers had lost substantially over the past 10 years because of the declining value of salaries. "If we fail to follow up actions, we go back to the eighties and the old SSTA," Mr Wright stated.

Mr Eaglesham said the executive would decide what form of action could be taken.

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