Union defiance pays off as council leaders are forced to admit that concessions must be made
LOCAL authorities are poised for a remarkable climbdown over teacher pay and conditions following their comprehensive drubbing at the hands of the unions late last year.
They are set to throw out some of the most contentious elements of the failed Millennium Review proposals when council chiefs meet in Stirling today (Friday), raising questions against their original negotiating stance.
Most notably, authorities want to ditch any notion of the extra 50 hours of social inclusion duties that many teachers regarded as the final straw. There is a flat rejection, too, of performance-
related pay, no mention of reforming composite classes and a major concession on the working week.
The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities continues to insist teachers must work a 35-hour week and that there should be flexibility about how the hours are divided, but they do not argue for total non-teaching time under management control, previously a major stumbling block.
Nevertheless, the authorities contend the current division of time, a product of the Main report in 1986, is "fundamentally incompatible with the good organisation of the education service".
In its likely evidence to the McCrone inquiry into pay and conditions, the authorities - like the unions - agree there should be three grades of teacher but suggest more flexibility around the middle grade.
They argue that those who hold mddle management posts could be called "principals" in deference to strong union arguments for the retention of principal teacher posts in secondaries.
The authorities suggest some posts will be for heads of subjects and others for general duties, including guidance. But they continue to argue all teachers should have a responsibility for guidance and welfare.
One Cosla leader said: "In the words of David Trimble, we have jumped, the unions should follow." Those who have been advising the authorities believe the overwhelming rejection of the previous Cosla deal by the unions gave negotiators the leverage to start again with a more open mind, merely submitting the best possible scenario for schools.
On pay, Cosla argues that substantial rises have to be met fully by the Scottish Executive. For the past seven years, annual increases have been paid from within authorities' budgets.
Links between pay and performance should be "strenuously" resisted, but appraisal should continue. Performance-related pay is "divisive" and a "bureaucratic distraction" and frequently dropped by businesses, Cosla says.
Among other significant sweeteners is agreement on the need for early retiral and proper pensions for staff who quit and sabbaticals.
Overall, Cosla wants to retain a national collective bargaining body which would replace the statutory Scottish Joint Negotiating Committee. Broad pay agreements should be settled nationally but with local flexibility over non-core conditions.