Union: 'It's the jackboot'

1st October 1999 at 01:00
The Government has appointed two of its own to advise the pay inquiry. Neil Munro reports.

Teachers' leaders, already deeply sceptical about the independence of the committee of inquiry into pay and conditions, will be further angered to learn that two representatives from management have been chosen to act as "advisers" to the committee.

The Educational Institute of Scotland expressed outrage last week that the eight committee members include business people and two head teachers under the chairmanship of a former Scottish Office senior civil servant - but no teacher representatives.

Now it emerges that Bruce Robertson, director of education in Highland, and Douglas Osler, the senior chief inspector of schools, are to advise the inquiry.

Neither has been particularly close to the negotiations, but it is assumed that Mr Robertson commended himself to Peter Peacock, the deputy minister and former convener of Highland Council.

Ronnie Smith, the union's general secretary, had already demanded a meeting with Sam Galbraith, the Children and Education Minister, to complain about the "unrepresentative" nature of the committee and its "suspicious" remit. The Liberal Democrats, who have not yet taken a stand on the detailed issues, have offered to mediate.

Harsh union anger was expressed at last week's SNP annual conference in Inverness. John Patton, the EIS president, told a fringe meeting that the inquiry had been "dressed up as a hush-puppy, but in reality it's the jackboot." He said the inquiry did not have a free hand - it was required to take public sector pay limits into account and to scrap the statutory basis of the Scottish Joint Negotiating Committee.

The union claims were robustly dismissed by Professor Gavin McCrone, the economist who leads the inquiry. He said it would have been remarkable if the Scottish Executive had not asked them to bear "affordability" in mind. And he did not feel in any way constrained in finding his way through "very complex matters."

The unions have also been angered because the inquiry is required to establish "a clear and demonstrable link between pay and conditions" - and between pay and "effectiveness". These are already key features of the education authorities' approach.

But Scottish Office sources point out that these were the same issues agreed by teacher and education authority leaders as the starting point for the Millennium Review two years ago. The remit was not dissimilar from that of the previous inquiry under Sir Peter Main in 1986, the sources say.

Meanwhile the Scottish Executive guaranteed the local authorities an extra pound;8 million to buy a last minute settlement before the final negotiations in August, Mr Galbraith revealed last week.

He said in his statement to Parliament that this was on top of the pound;187 million which the offer would have added to the teachers' pay bill by 2001-2.

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