New challenge to old discipline codes

6th September 1996 at 01:00
The teaching unions are facing another challenge to the disciplinary agreements inherited by the new councils from the former authorities, writes Neil Munro.

The Educational Institute of Scotland is already taking South Lanarkshire Council to an industrial tribunal over what the union claims is an arbitrary imposition of new procedures for disciplining teachers, which breaks the agreement reached with Strathclyde (TESS, June 7). The case is likely to be heard in November.

The EIS now looks as though it could be at loggerheads with Argyll and Bute Council on the same issue. Its finance and personnel committee agreed last week to place all its staff on the same disciplinary footing despite failing to reach agreement with the teaching unions.

The Argyll decision, which standardises eight different disciplinary procedures bequeathed by the previous authorities, has to be ratified by the full council on September 12. But Ken Wimbor, the EIS assistant secretary, warned: "We will wait and see how the council implements these procedures, but we will continue to oppose arbitrary changes which have not been agreed with the teaching unions" The EIS also claims that these changes breach EU employment regulations protecting staff as they transfer from one employer to another.

But Danny Longwill, Argyll's director of personnel services, points out that the main bone of contention between the two sides is the change to the dismissal procedures for teachers. This had nothing to do with the actual transfer of employees to the new council, he said, but resulted from the change to the legislation which no longer required education committee approval for the dismissal of teachers.

The new procedures, which Mr Longwill stressed would not be implemented until senior managers were trained to operate them, stipulate staff dismissal decisions for all staff (with the exception of the chief executive) would be taken by senior management with a right of appeal to a special committee of councillors.

Mr Longwill said in his report that the aim was to treat all employees fairly and consistently without the "anomaly" of separate treatment for any one group. The unions said in their response, however, that "the incorporation of teachers within a procedure for all employees undermines the status of the teaching profession".

The EIS regards the South Lanarkshire tribunal case as crucial because it fears other councils are poised to take a similar stance.

But the tribunal hearing may offer no guide to other councils because it is likely to turn on the issue of consultation. Argyll and Bute maintains it has consulted the unions.

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