Salvos fired over pay deal

4th September 2009 at 01:00
Emotional blackmail and threats to employment rights surface as councils and unions clash

Teacher unions and councils are heading towards open conflict as public spending cuts threaten employment rights and education services, as well as the teachers' three-year pay deal, The TESS has learnt.

In Glasgow, where the authority is leading the charge in the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities to reopen the teachers' pay deal and impose a pay freeze next year, unions claim they are facing emotional blackmail - give up your pay increase or see services cut even further.

Ann Ballinger, general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association, said union representatives had been told that if teachers accepted next year's pay increase of 2.4 per cent, it would have to be paid for by cuts in education.

Hugh Donnelly, the Glasgow area secretary for the Educational Institute of Scotland, suggested the threat to the education budget was the "opening shot of a media attack".

But a source within Glasgow City Council counter-attacked, alleging that Willie Hart, Mr Donnelly's predecessor, had himself tried to blackmail the council by threatening withdrawal of EIS support for future school closures if the authority tried to reopen the teachers' pay deal.

The source added: "Some pound;5 million would be required to meet the teachers' pay increase - it will have to come from a budget somewhere in the council."

Gordon Matheson, treasurer of Glasgow City Council, added: "Our staff have generated a remarkable pound;100 million of service reforms over the last five years, with education playing its full part.

"But we cannot achieve a further pound;68m of efficiencies in one year, as we have to, without a pay freeze. With jobs being lost across the economy, and the retail price index below zero, this is a reasonable approach in order to save jobs and services."

A meeting took place on August 25 when discussions on an across-the-board pay freeze were held between trade union representatives, council leader Steven Purcell and treasurer Matheson.

In another development, Mr Donnelly, who was not at that meeting, went on to accuse the council of adopting a policy of deliberately breaking the contracts of teachers on temporary supply to prevent them from accruing employment rights.

Although clause 8.5 in the teachers' national agreement gives them the right to a permanent contract after two years of continuous service, this has been superseded by changes to employment rights. A teacher now becomes permanent if he or she works for an academic year plus one day in the first week of the next session.

A number of authorities are also tightening up their arrangements for allocating supply cover, with many insisting that this function be centralised.

Mrs Ballinger said: "I believe councils want to avoid the situation where a teacher gets a permanent contract by the back door, if they have accumulated service in a variety of schools."

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