EIS president: 'Move forward in unity'

10th June 2011 at 01:00
Call for members to move on and direct their anger at Cosla

The outgoing president of the EIS teachers' union issued a plea for unity yesterday as its leadership faced a deluge of criticism for its handling of this year's pay and conditions negotiations.

Kay Barnett called for members to put internal strife behind them and portrayed the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities as the true villain of the talks.

There are eight motions calling for industrial action at the EIS annual general meeting this week in Perth, with many members venting their anger at the union's narrow acceptance of the controversial deal.

Mrs Barnett told delegates at the AGM that the national deal, whose terms include a two-year salary freeze and big reductions in supply teachers' pay, was backed only "reluctantly".

"The acceptance of such a difficult deal reflected the hard reality of a set of challenging circumstances relevant to an entire sector of public sector workers," she said.

It was "now time for all of us in the broad church of the EIS to move forward in unity", she said in a tacit appeal to the "Reject EIS" campaign that has garnered considerable support through Facebook and Twitter.

Anger would be better focused on Cosla - especially given plans such as a longer teaching year in its submission to the McCormac review of teacher employment - she suggested.

The local authority body's plans were "dressed up in educational rationale" but actually prioritised saving money and revealed a determination to "claw back" elements of the 2001 teachers' agreement, she argued.

"Cosla's current proposals boldly display a basic lack of trust in the entire Scottish teaching profession and, should they come to fruition, would not deliver a teaching profession fit for the 21st century but a teaching profession not even fit for the 19th century," Mrs Barnett said.

A Cosla spokesman suggested that teachers considering strike action saw themselves as more important than other public sector workers.

"Teachers are very valued members of the local government workforce but they are not more special than the care worker looking after the elderly in their homes, or environmental services who dispose of the rubbish, or trading standards and environmental health, who provide a wide range of services protecting the public," he said.

"All across the local government family, men and women are providing essential services to the vulnerable and needy; perhaps the teachers should reflect on that as they contemplate industrial action."

henry.hepburn@tes.co.uk

Alan Munro, president of EIS, p16; Chatroom, p51.

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