Employers defiant on pay

8th May 1998 at 01:00
The annual negotiations are near breakdown and the unions are angry. David Henderson reports.

Elizabeth Maginnis, the local authorities' chief negotiator, will today tell primary heads that the disparity in senior posts between primary and secondary is "absurd". She will call for swift action to reorganise promoted posts.

Her defiant message on restructuring comes as the Educational Institute of Scotland's executive council considers the breakdown in talks over this year's annual pay round.

The union is angry at the employers' decision to link pay with the outcome of the Millennium Review on management and conditions in schools.

Meanwhile the Association of Head Teachers in Scotland, which meets in Dunblane for its annual conference, has taken advice from Queen's Counsel and is gearing up for a legal test case on pay parity between primary heads and the heads of secondary schools of similar size.

Primary heads are confident they can dismantle the existing pay and management differentials through the courts. It could be a lengthy case. But should they succeed, it would almost certainly shatter the Scottish Joint Negotiating Committee and add substantially to the councils' pay bill.

Mrs Maginnis will underline to primary heads that authorities will only offer a substantial pay increase if the EIS, as the lead negotiating union, accepts a commitment to the reform of promoted posts. Otherwise there will be no more money on the table beyond the 2.7 per cent offer.

She will tell primary heads the existing promoted post structures "militate against supporting good classroom teachers to remain in the classroom, actively militate against efficient management of our primary schools and actively militate against the efficient use of resources in our secondary schools".

Mrs Maginnis will say: "To get it all so completely wrong rather suggests we need to act faster rather than slower on this matter. It is not uncommon in small secondary schools to find that over half the teachers are in promoted posts. It is not uncommon in similar sized primary schools to find only two promoted members of staff.

"The situation is absurd and makes us a laughing stock. It is clear we need, as a matter of urgency, to find a way to resolve the issues of salary conservation - which are hamstrung and trussed up by SJNC regulation - if we are to break the deadlock.

"We have to be able to demonstrate that we can put own own house in order and that we don't let the old shibboleths and education politics get in the way of what is best for our pupils."

But one union negotiator told The TESS "You can kiss goodbye to Higher Still" unless the pay dispute is settled before the EIS annual conference early next month.

The annual general meeting is already facing a boycott call and any management intransigence on pay could trigger industrial action on post-16 reforms.

Employers this week raised their pay offer from 2.5 to 2.7 per cent, backdated to April 1. They say the figure is higher than the full-year settlement in England and Wales. They are offering a two stage deal, with the prospect of higher pay backdated to April 1 once talks on the Millennium Review open in August. In return they want restructuring.

The EIS negotiators say the opening offer is still 0.3 per cent less than the award to other local government workers.

It is believed a 3 per cent award would satisfy the unions, who originally tabled a bid of 4.7 per cent. A teacher at the top of the basic scale would receive pound;21,890 on a 2.7 per cent award. On 3 per cent it would be pound;21,954, a difference of pound;64.

The EIS points out that the award to teachers south of the border is end-loaded. They will start next year's negotiations 3.8 per cent ahead, leaving Scottish teachers still further behind.

The unions believe there will be Government pressure on both sides to conclude an agreement quickly.

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