Economist leads inquiry

24th September 1999 at 01:00
Neil Munro reports on the new committee looking into teachers' pay and conditions.

Gavin McCrone, visiting professor in Edinburgh University's business studies department, is to chair the committee of inquiry into teachers' pay, conditions and promotion structures. Aged 66, he is a former chief economic adviser to successive secretaries of state.

His appointment, and the names of the other members of the committee, were announced on Wednesday to the Scottish Parliament by Sam Galbraith, the Children and Education Minister. The committee has been asked to report by May, including recommendations for new bargaining machinery to replace the Scottish Joint Negotiating Committee.

Mr Galbraith said he had chosen a chairman from outwith the school system "to underline the objectivity with which this task should be approached."

Ronnie Smith, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, remains unconvinced of the inquiry's independence. He said the restrictive terms of reference were simply a cover for the Government's agenda. Mr Smith also criticised the absence of classroom teachers on the inquiry, and he wants a meeting with the minister.

The decision to go ahead with the inquiry and remove the statutory basis of the SJNC was revealed in last week's TESS. It was taken immediately after 98 per cent of the EIS membership voted to reject the local authorities' pay and conditions package, worth 14.7 per cent on average over three years. The other three unions have given the offer a similar thumbs-down.

The unions and education authorities will meet on October 8 to see if there is any common ground left for a settlement this year. The teachers' claim is for eight per cent without strings, but the authorities point out that other council employees have received only 3.3 per cent with substantial changes to their conditions. A three per cent rise would add pound;42 million to the pound;1.4 billion salaries bill.

The EIS annual conference in June committed the union to take industrial action not only in pursuit of its pay claim, but also if there is any threat to the SJNC. Mr Smith said there could also be an adverse reaction if ministers tried to impose any revised pay and conditions package before any new mechanism replaces the SJNC.

Mr Galbraith, asked if he feared his decision to repeal the SJNC in the forthcoming education bill would sour the atmosphere and hold up a settlement for this year, replied: "I hope not." He was willing to mediate if asked.

Mr Galbraith confirmed on Wednesday that he does not want to see a proliferation of local bargaining arrangements in each of the 32 education authorities. He wants national bargaining to continue. Mr Galbraith made it clear that his principal objection to the "old-fashioned and inflexible" SJNC was the legally binding status of its agreements, not its national provenance.

Ministers have not ruled out a pay review body for teachers, which exists south of the border, as a long-term solution. But it does not appear to be their preference, and sources have pointed to the successful record of negotiation for council white collar and other non-teaching staff.

Mr Galbraith contrasted this with the experience of the SJNC which he said had failed to deliver a modern pay and conditions structure twice this decade - a reference to the 1992 package, which also unravelled.

"Teachers themselves have not benefited from this pay bargaining machinery," he said. "The pay of unpromoted teachers in Scotland at the top of their scale trails behind that paid to their counterparts south of the border."

Sources confirmed that "the straw which broke the camel's back" was the unions' failure to support a deal, which management believed their negotiators had agreed to do last month.

For the EIS, Mr Smith denied there was any deal. They had consistently said the package was unacceptable but had agreed to put the offer to the membership. He also took issue with ministerial assumptions that the SJNC had taken two years to get nowhere. The real talks only began last November in Airth Castle near Stirling, he said.

David McLetchie, the Scottish Conservative leader, called for "armistice talks rather than trench warfare." The arbitration service ACAS should be asked to mediate, he said, but the long-term answer was an independent pay review body.

Alex Salmond, the SNP leader, in an interview on the eve of his party conference in Inverness this week, said teachers had "some substantial grounds for their difficulties with the employers' offer." Negotiations should continue but Mr Galbraith's "threats" were making matters worse, he added.


Professor McCrone will be joined in his inquiry by: * Alan Campbell, chief executive of Aberdeenshire Council.

* Bob Elliot, professor of economics at Aberdeen University and an expert on public sector pay and the labour market.

* David Hutchison, civil engineer and president of the Scottish School Board Association.

* Patricia McColl, head of Campie Primary in Musselburgh, who taught in the United States for a year.

* Norrie McLeod, general manager for personnel at Standard Life.

* Ann Mulgrew, head of St Andrew's High in East Kilbride, who taught in Canada for a year.

Another professional or business member will be appointed after consulting the chairman.


The committee of inquiry into teachers' pay, conditions and promotion structures has been charged "to ensure a committed, professional and flexible teaching force which will secure high and improving standards of school education."

The inquiry is also being asked to recommend an alternative to the Scottish Joint Negotiating Committee.

Any pay proposals will have to take into account the impact on public expenditure and the Government's inflation target.

Ministers have set out clear principles for the committee: * Teachers' pay should be at a level to recruit, retain and motivate high quality teaching staff.

* There should be a clear and demonstrable link between additional pay for teachers and revised conditions and working practices, which meet the need for modernisation and higher standards.

* There should be opportunities for career advancement for teachers, especially those of acknowledged excellence who wish to continue to deploy their skills in the classroom.

* The structure of pay and conditions of service should be designed to promote and reward effectiveness in both teaching and school management.

* Management structures in schools should be sufficiently flexible to meet changing needs and challenges, while still ensuring effective delivery of the daily responsibilities of each school.

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