A partial settlement;Opinion

29th May 1998 at 01:00
Douse the fiery cross. The expected battle over teachers' pay was averted. But the 3 per cent award, with no strings attached, has had interesting effects. The Educational Institute of Scotland concedes, in the article alongside, that teachers north of the border are falling behind their southern colleagues.

Notwithstanding, the EIS prefers to stick by the Scottish Joint Negotiating Committee rather than desert direct bargaining for the review body that decides pay in England and Wales. Over the years the review body has produced marginally higher awards, but the EIS says there have been matching sacrifices on classroom conditions. However, management pressure to scrap the SJNC - always in the Government's in-tray - is bound to increase.

When the employers first suggested a higher settlement in return for looking at conditions, the unions knew the councils had enough money to pay the extra. They simply had to sit back and wait for concessions that were bound to come. Management tactics were poor.

The time for dispute about updating conditions of service - in particular the complex promotion structure in schools - is not yet. The millennium review is trying to reconcile conflicting ideas. To link pay and conditions now would have wrecked the chances of wider agreement, slim though these are.

The settlement means that next week's EIS conference will not be a council of war. The leadership is bound, however, to face hard questions about relative pay rates across the border. There will also be dire warnings about surrendering teachers' conditions at a time of targets and pressure on the curriculum and assessment. Dundee's Caird Hall will resound with calls for non-co-operation in national programmes.True, the mood in the profession generally is more resigned than militant. But there is also concern lest the millennium review signals the beating of a retreat on conditions, whatever the accompanying pay sweetener.

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