Job cuts stir strike threat

17th December 2010 at 00:00
Industrial action is on the cards in Aberdeen as teachers face compulsory redundancies

Teachers in Aberdeen have threatened to strike as they face the prospect of compulsory redundancies. A boycott of Curriculum for Excellence is also on the cards.

With strike action being threatened in Glasgow, this week has seen some of the clearest signs yet that the profession's relative harmony since the 2001 teachers' agreement is about to be shattered.

A range of drastic cuts was agreed in principle by Aberdeen councillors this week. This represented "the preparation of a worst-case scenario in order to allow a cynical attack on teachers' nationally-agreed conditions of service", said Grant Bruce, local secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland.

But it is the continuing threat of compulsory redundancies, as the council seeks to cut 900 jobs in all, that could convince teachers to go on strike for the first time since the 1980s.

"Aberdeen would be leaving itself open to targeted industrial action by the EIS if it decided to ignore (Finance Secretary) John Swinney's suggestion to local authorities that there should be no compulsory redundancies for council staff," Mr Bruce said.

Ann Ballinger, general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association, said imposition of compulsory redundancies would mark a pivotal moment: her union, too, was likely to ballot on industrial action.

She said other authorities were waiting to see what Aberdeen did and gauge the fallout before deciding whether to pursue a similar course.

In a letter to councillors, Mr Bruce deplored "unacceptable" proposals that would cut 27 additional support needs teachers, 34 nursery teacher posts and 39 music instructors.

The loss of 290 pupil support assistants, in particular, is feared likely to have a damaging knock-on effect on teachers, whose numbers have fallen by 250 since 2008.

"An increased workload makes it more difficult than it is already to find time to implement CfE, and it is hardly surprising that there have been calls from many schools for Aberdeen EIS to consider a boycott of CfE," Mr Bruce said.

Teachers also feel that, in Aberdeen, CfE has not steered the city away from an "assessment-driven agenda".

Martin Greig, vice-convener of the city's education, culture and sport committee, said it was a "realistic aim" to improve education in the city, whatever cuts were made.

In Glasgow, meanwhile, where savings of pound;33.5 million are being demanded in education, the EIS has predicted industrial action if February's budget confirms "unpalatable and undeliverable cuts".

henry.hepburn@tes.co.uk.

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