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Strike threat as Aberdeen proposes 400 compulsory redundancies

More than 400 Aberdeen teachers and other school staff are facing compulsory redundancy in a move that could have drastic ramifications for the profession across Scotland.

The city council is pressing ahead with plans to axe a total of 900 jobs in order to help make budget savings of pound;120 million, it emerged this week.

It claimed there was "no alternative" after unions rejected a plan to fund voluntary redundancies with 5 per cent pay cuts for all staff on salaries of more than pound;21,000. The bid to cut salaries unilaterally had astonished many by its failure to acknowledge that teachers' pay is negotiated nationally.

"I cannot believe that, for the sake of pound;3m needed to pay for exit packages for 900 employees, the Lib Dem-SNP administration is prepared to create industrial unrest in this city," said Grant Bruce, secretary of the Aberdeen branch of the Educational Institute of Scotland, after staff were informed of the move by letter.

Both the EIS and the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association have warned that compulsory redundancies will inevitably lead to ballots on strike action.

Mr Bruce was left "disappointed" and "shocked" that, after three years of working with the authority to find staff reductions and help save pound;60m, employees would be forced out of their jobs in a move that would save only pound;3m.

He said the 900 job losses would include about 100 teachers - in additional support needs and nursery posts, as well as music instructors - 290 pupil support assistants and 40 school administrators. Some 250 city teaching jobs have already been cut in the past three years.

But those affected retain some hope of not being forced out of their jobs - a move that would only get the final seal of approval when the council sets its budget on February 10 - given inevitable tensions between members of the city's Lib Dem-SNP administration.

Finance Secretary John Swinney reiterated this week that, despite the tough settlement for local authorities announced in his November budget, he believed they could avoid compulsory redundancies. In an election year, he is likely to take a dim view of SNP party colleagues going against that advice.

Meanwhile, there was better news for education staff in Scottish Borders after additional funding was found that will prevent the council from having to make its planned cut of pound;143,000 to its additional needs assistants budget.

Councillors had raised concerns about the potential impact of the proposed cut to some of the most vulnerable children in the authority.

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