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Pay wrangle goes on

Talks head for the wire as EIS counter-proposals are attacked as unrealistically extravagant

EMPLOYERS calculate that counter-proposals by the Educational Institute of Scotland for restructuring pay and conditions could eventually cost pound;500 million, two-and-a-half times the sum councils have allocated.

The union refused to put figures against its alternative scheme at the latest meeting of the Scottish Joint Negotiating Committee this week but accepted key principles on reform that could pave the way for an eventual settlement.

There is now pressure on both sides to reach an agreement before elections for the Scottish parliament and local councils in May. The next crucial meeting is scheduled for March 17.

Ronnie Smith, the EIS's general secretary, said the union's proposals could not be costed at present, and neither could the employers'. Local authority leaders had yet to say how many teachers would progress to new grades, making it impossible to estimate hard sums. "A lot of work has still to be done," Mr Smith said.

He warned: "If there is a limited amount of money available and we are working within a cap, the scale of change management wants may have to be tempered. The impression put about is that there is a pot of gold. But is there?" Figures in the EIS's submission, which Mr Smith says are merely "illustrative" of possible differentials, would suggest that 18,000 teachers at the top of the current scale could earn up to pound;28,000, a 27 per cent rise. Local authorities say there is a pound;90 million gap in that calculation.

Such outline figures are certain to alarm council negotiators who are already under pressure to trim back their offer. Some local government leaders outside education believe that they are in danger of throwing money at teachers for little return.

The union's 80-strong executive council last week ratified counter-proposals, now dispatched to schools, which overlap with many areas favoured by the employers. The union will have to argue there will be limited concessions in return for higher pay.

Significantly the EIS, the lead union, has accepted the need for restructuring management posts in secondary, shortening pay scales, rewarding teachers for work done and accepting that access to higher grade posts should only be through some form of "quality assessment".

Mr Smith said: "We want to increase classroom salaries, we want a simplified and streamlined pay structure, and recognition of the huge number of hours teachers work, and we want to reprofessionalise the profession."

A key concept is a collegiate approach in individual schools, with staff consultative committees. "The heart of our proposals is professional autonomy," Mr Smith said. But he recognises there are likely to be substantial differences over union proposals to standardise class contact time at 22.5 hours, largely retain teachers' control over the rest of their 35-hour week and cut class sizes significantly.

Mr Smith insisted: "The myth that it's wipe-out time for principal teachers ought to be scotched. We have got a professional leadership scale and there is a job to be done in curricular and pastoral leadership."

Employers and unions both back a three-tier structure but are divided on what it would cover. The authorities suggest a basic grade, a professional leadership scale and senior management posts. The EIS proposes teaching, leadership and management grades. A notable disagreement is over "superteachers" and any reference to the extra 70 hours a year demanded by management.

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