Keeping their powder dry

12th May 2000 at 01:00
THE teachers' pay settlement has something for everyone, but unfortunately not much for teachers themselves. The local authorities are happy to have settled painlessly for

2.5 per cent, which is what they were budgeting for. Having to bear the whole cost of annual rises is a burden, and council leaders will eagerly scan the report of the McCrone committee for any sign of a fairer way of meeting the bills.

The unions are unhappy with the minimal increase their members will receive. Teachers are not to blame for the Bank of England's concern about 6 per cent increases fuelling inflation. But the negotiating machinery has worked well this year, too late to save it from abolition but in a way which the unions hope may bring a replacement that amounts to more than just a centrally imposed award.

The Executive will be quietly satisfied that th teachers' salaries bill has risen proportionately less in Scotland than south of the border, where the rise is 3.3 per cent. Not only does that help the budget, but it also indicates that a pay awards body need not necessarily produce a worse result than across-the-table bargaining. That could pave the way for what ministers draw from the McCrone report.

The ease with which the settlement was reached owes much to the imminence of McCrone. Powder is being kept dry. Teachers' leaders will also counter criticism from members about the disappointing outcome last week by pointing to a fundamental law of economics. As the supply of recruits to the profession falters, so the demand by schools and local authorities will bring pressure for better pay and conditions. Graduates with post-Cubie repayments to make will vote with their calculators.

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