Council threat to pay deal

28th August 2009 at 01:00
EIS accuses local authorities of being `dishonest and disreputable' as they attempt to impose pay freeze on teachers

Scotland's largest teaching union has warned it will resist any attempt by local authority employers to reopen the teachers' three-year pay deal and strip them of their agreed 2.4 per cent increase next April.

The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) has drawn up a paper for discussion in private today recommending a pay freeze until 2014 for thousands of council staff, and the renegotiation of the final year of the teachers' pay agreement.

Although Cosla officials refused to discuss details of the leaked report, Gordon Matheson, the treasurer of Glasgow City Council, warned: "If we don't agree to a pay freeze, jobs and services will be lost, given the current financial climate.

"As part of the spending review forecasts made by John Swinney, Glasgow was anticipating a 2.8 per cent increase in our budget settlement in 2010- 11. In monetary terms, this equates to an additional pound;37 million.

"We have now been told by Mr Swinney to anticipate a standstill budget next year. How can we plug that pound;37 million additional hole if we continue to honour pay rises that were agreed in vastly different financial circumstances?"

Mr Matheson first made his call on teachers' pay in comments to The TESS earlier this year (May 15). This week, he blamed the Scottish Government for "effectively going back on the tripartite pay deal for teachers by imposing a freeze on council budgets while the teachers' pay agreement is still current".

He added: "Moreover, when pay freezes and even cuts are the norm in the private sector, and other council services are cutting back, what would the public think if teachers' pay was regarded as sacrosanct?"

The only exception to the pay freeze should be low-paid workers, said Mr Matheson.

Ronnie Smith, general secretary of the EIS, pointed out that it was Cosla and the Scottish Government who insisted on there being no "re-opener" clause when negotiating the teachers' three-year pay deal. "They wanted certainty over three years - we were the ones who actually argued for a reopener clause in case things moved wildly out of line," said Mr Smith.

"To turn round now when they think they are not doing well out of it and say all bets are off is dishonest and disreputable. They got what they wanted - they have to live with the consequences."

Mr Smith also suggested that any moves by Cosla to renegotiate agreed pay deals were a signal that the concordat was unravelling, since it was signed on the basis that local government accepted it had been given sufficient funding by central government.

A spokesman for the Scottish Government, which is the third party in the tripartite Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers, said: "We are committed to honouring existing agreed pay deals, many of which affect our key staff, including nurses, teachers and police."

But, he added, ministers were showing a lead on pay and had themselves taken a pay freeze this year.

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