The deal is dead - so what's plan B?

25th October 2013 at 01:00

It is back to the drawing board for the parties negotiating teachers' pay and conditions. Of EIS union members who voted, just shy of 60 per cent came out against proposed changes to their terms of service (see pages 7-8).

It was all or nothing as far as local authorities body Cosla and the Scottish government were concerned. Thus the 1 per cent pay rise proposed for this year and next is likely to be off the table; the new deal for supply teachers, with a price tag of #163;1.5 million per year, is hanging in the balance; and chartered teachers' salaries, which were to be maintained even though the scheme was scrapped, are once again at risk.

The EIS salaries committee wanted to recommend that members accept the proposed changes. However, the union's council decided that the ballot should be issued without a recommendation "to encourage debate and discussion".

With just 30 per cent of members voting, it is questionable whether this goal was achieved, and the EIS may by now be regretting the decision as it finds itself at loggerheads with the government and Cosla. Meanwhile the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association, arguably more used to the role of black sheep, called the changes "measured and reasonable".

So what are EIS members objecting to? The 2011 McCormac report on the profession, on which the negotiations were based, was seen by the unions as a major threat to teachers' terms and conditions, because it opened the door to external experts taking classes unsupervised and headteachers being given greater powers over promoted posts and flexible use of staff.

However, during the talks the original 17 recommendations were either "sidelined or neutered", according to the EIS, with only two remaining. These were "much modified", the union said. The new deal would still have seen the list of tasks teachers should not have to perform replaced with a "professional statement". Teachers could also have been asked to work more flexibly, perhaps being compensated with time off in lieu for tasks undertaken outside contracted hours.

Nevertheless, the EIS said that the professional statement would have offered "as strong a protection against routine administration tasks" as the current list, and also pointed out that any flexible working would have had to be agreed at school level. This reform was likely to have had "limited implications", the union claimed, adding that for some teachers it might even have been beneficial, because staff already working flexibly would have got time back.

The changes to conditions, therefore, do not seem that concerning. So why is industrial action now on the horizon? Pay is a part of it, of course.

The EIS statement issued alongside the result of the ballot appeared to suggest not that the deal was a bad one but that it was the final straw for teachers after a two-year pay freeze, increased pension contributions and the reality of excessive workloads.

Let's just hope that the EIS has a plan B.

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