Following the complaints from the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association about the exploitation of classroom assistants (TESS last week), who is the union more concerned about: the exploited assistants, the allegedly deprived children or the teachers who view this as an old-style demarcation dispute?
Where has the SSTA been for the past few years? Unison represents over 90 per cent of Scotland's classroom assistants and played an active role in support of the Equal Opportunities Commission report on the subject, published last May.
Unison also represents many other key education staff, and would welcome government, media and fellow trade union recognition that staff other than teachers are involved in delivering education. Unlike the SSTA survey, the EOC report clearly details the tasks and responsibilities that classroom assistants perform while being paid little more than the minimum wage.
The SSTA risks diminishing the standing of teaching trade unions by exploiting the plight of assistants to score a point about employment levels among teachers. The real issue is the role, qualifications and pay of classroom assistants - an issue that is being addressed by the employers and Unison through the appropriate structures.
chairwoman, Unison Scotland education issues group, Glasgow.