Scotland's educational advisers are considering industrial action if there is no early settlement of their claim to be awarded the same pay deal as teachers - and they say their sense of urgency is shared by the Education Minister.
A meeting last week of the Association of Educational Advisers in Scotland, attended by an unprecedented 80 per cent of its 100-plus members, also decided to seek legal advice on the terms of their contracts of employment. The association claims these stipulate that pay awards should equal those of teachers.
The AEAS is therefore holding out for the teachers' full 23 per cent rise, with an initial 10 per cent backdated to April. The education authorities, who want to break the link with teachers' pay enjoyed by advisers as well as psychologists and music instructors, have offered a down payment of 3 per cent, which was dismissed as "insulting and derisory".
The advisers grew even more disenchanted when instructors were awarded an initial 10 per cent in the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers. Management and unions have now set up working groups, on which the AEAS is not represented, to look at pay and conditions of the three groups of staff.
Tommy Doherty, an executive member of the association, said his members felt "a sense of betrayal" at the lack of momentum in the talks. He said:
"At best this situation will not be resolved until at least halfway through the financial year. This is clearly totally unsatisfactory. Advisers are entitled to expect an interim 10 per cent pending the outcome of these protracted negotiations."
The AEAS claims to have the implicit support of Jack McConnell, the Education Minister. In a letter to Roderick MacKenzie, the association's president, Mr McConnell said their concerns should be resolved "as a matter of urgency".
The Minister's letter was sent in March. Mr Doherty said that any delay into the summer would effectively add three months to the process. "The phrase 'a matter of urgency' certainly does not imply a delay of the present magnitude," he added.