Industrial action on cards at EIS

17th June 2011 at 01:00
Members prepare to do battle over McCormac review's `attack' on teachers

Scotland's largest teaching union is to hold its first special general meeting in 11 years in preparation for possible industrial action.

After a tumultuous period of internal conflict for the EIS, members are steeling themselves for the publication in September of the McCormac review of teacher employment; many believe it will prove to be an "attack" on teachers.

The special forum, on a date yet to be set, will be used to organise a response to the McCormac findings but the union has already raised the prospect of industrial action.

At its annual general meeting in Perth last week, members voted overwhelmingly to "resist any deterioration" in conditions of service outlined in the 2001 teachers' agreement, and "to oppose any imposition or changes to conditions of service, using industrial action if necessary".

The agenda in Perth was initially dominated by members decrying the EIS leaders' decision to back a pay freeze and pound;45m of cuts, a move narrowly approved by members earlier this year.

"Members pay handsomely for leadership and they feel they're not getting it," said West Dunbartonshire delegate Michael Dolan.

There was particular anger about the impact on supply teachers, whose pay will be reduced if working for five days or fewer. One such teacher, Vicki Robertson from Glasgow, said: "This decision was undemocratic and in direct contravention of EIS policy, which is unacceptable."

Some delegates reported large numbers resigning from the union in protest, although others told TESS that disaffected members were staying put in the belief that the EIS remained better able than smaller unions to resist the looming threat to pay and conditions.

Even some of the most vehement critics of the union's leadership cautiously welcomed a speech by general secretary Ronnie Smith in which he went on the offensive against council body Cosla.

He attacked its "miserable submission" to McCormac - which claimed that the primary role of a teacher was not to teach children - and its "conscious attack on the professionalism and autonomy of teachers".

The later stages of the three-day AGM saw all factions directing anger at Cosla, and a recognition that a united front was crucial.

"We've got to show solidarity, because this mob's coming for us and we've got to get ready," said Renfrewshire's Brian McGovern.

While pay and conditions dominated, debate over Curriculum for Excellence was also heated; there was widespread disquiet that CfE had become an excuse for making cuts.

"The problem is that everything is in the gift of management - (CfE) was supposed to free us up," said South Lanarkshire's Thomas Castles.

The AGM instructed EIS council to organise, by November, a ballot on boycotting any further development work on CfE; the council will also consider whether to demand increased and ring-fenced Scottish Government funding for the reform.

A motion calling for the EIS to withdraw from the CfE management board, until agreement of a one-year delay of implementation of new qualifications was agreed, was easily defeated.

Education convener Larry Flanagan warned against blaming CfE for "all the ills in the world".

henry.hepburn@tes.co.uk

OTHER BUSINESS

- A campaign to defend teachers' pensions is to be organised, including a national ballot on strike action.

- A call to review the link between the general secretary's salary and that of headteachers was easily defeated.

- EIS council has been asked to negotiate maximum class sizes of 20 across all stages.

- Any attempt by local authorities to select candidates for the chartered teacher scheme will be opposed.

- EIS council will raise concerns with the Government about reduced nursery teacher numbers.

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