The maintenance of teachers' jobs and the avoidance of compulsory redundancies were the priorities in this year's negotiations on salaries and conditions, not vastly higher pay, Malcolm Maciver, the Educational Institute of Scotland's salaries convener, told the conference. Not one teacher had been made compulsory redundant.
But Allan Armstrong, Edinburgh, protested: "This is turning a blind eye to thousands of teachers who have lost their jobs because they are on temporary contracts."
Mr Maciver, defending the leadership strategy, insisted the EIS's campaign on funding had been successful in protecting teachers from the worst aspects of council cuts while the existence of the Scottish Joint Negotiating Committee had prevented the fragmentation of the education service. "Teachers in England and Wales are effectively employed by 4,000 employers," Mr Maciver said.
Union negotiators had accepted 2.5 per cent without "any enthusiasm but with a sense of realism". Only "three letters and a phone call" to head office had condemned the settlement.
The salaries committee recognised the difficulties 32 councils had in establishing a common position. "It is a source of enormous frustration to us," Mr Maciver said.
Yet another attempt from the floor to introduce a flat-rating element to any future pay round was defeated by 182-118 votes. However, delegates backed tough action to preserve the SJNC.
Bill Cairns, North Lanarkshire, labelled the campaign for a pay and conditions review body by the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, as "disingenuous and opportunistic". But Mr Cairns warned that Labour had yet to disassociate itself from the review body call. "Do not assume a pay review body for Scottish teachers is buried for all time," he said.
Mr Maciver said: "We are not in the business of seeing any dilution of national bargaining."
* A call for strike action over planned reforms of the teachers' superannuation scheme was defeated. Delegates preferred to pressure the Government by working with teacher unions throughout the United Kingdom.
Peter Andrews, Angus, backing the leadership line, accused the previous Government of "quite disgraceful" behaviour in rushing through its reforms. Sick teachers who could not prove their illness was permanent would be debarred from retiring on ill-health grounds, Mr Andrews said. But it was important to remember that superannuation changes affected 500,000 teachers in Britain. The union could not act alone.
Jock Morris, Glasgow, said: "Imagine a strike with half a million teachers on it. Absolutely brilliant."
Among other motions, delegates backed calls for full retirement benefits after 35 years' service and for a right to retire at the age of 55 with a pension related to years of service. John McMillan, Dumfries and Galloway, said such issues touched on the "despair and demoralisation" of teachers.