The plea from Perth

13th June 2003 at 01:00
LAST weekend's 157th annual conference of the Educational Institute of Scotland was without question the most douce meeting of colleagues and comrades most will ever have encountered. Even the standard practice of challenge to the leadership from the left was muted in comparison to the rants of previous years. A single half-hearted call for industrial action over the class size campaign was easily brushed aside and for the first time in almost a decade there was no rallying plea about Higher Still. Last year's advisory ballot lanced the unrest.

Post-16 assessment may continue to be a live issue but not it appears among union activists after the educational establishment held its reformist nerve. Its strategy of concession and delay looks to have won the day.

It is rather ironic that the most tetchy issue at the tail end of the summer term - job-sizing and its effect on senior promoted staff - is not one on which the majority of delegates would rush to the ballot box. Many would be glad to see their heads and deputes take a clattering. But this is a serious issue for the union which is now implacably behind its primary members in their campaign for equitable treatment. Hostilities have resumed between the EIS and the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association and this is an old-fashioned membership scrap with the latter optimistic it will pick up the disgruntled whose jobs will be downgraded, even if they are on conserved salaries.

As Ronnie Smith, EIS general secretary, said in his address, the logic of union unity has strengthened with the post-McCrone deal. Promoted post structures and pay scales between primary and secondary will be fully integrated. So why have separate unions? The truth is that many subscribe to opposition unions because they are "not the EIS", which remains a heavily politicised power broker. Until that diminishes with the ageing profession, unity will be a distant prospect.

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