Workforce - Union minority put pay deal in peril

25th October 2013 at 01:00
EIS ballot rejects proposed changes to working conditions

Uncertainty reigns for teachers throughout Scotland after members of the country's biggest teaching union have refused to back changes to working conditions.

The EIS balloted members over the proposed changes, which included giving local authorities more flexibility in deciding how teachers spent their time, and teachers taking on more non-teaching tasks.

Although 59 per cent of those who voted rejected the proposals, the turnout was only 30 per cent. Meanwhile, the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association described the alterations as "measured and reasonable".

The proposals were part of a larger pay and conditions package being negotiated by the unions, local authorities body Cosla and the Scottish government. As a result, the EIS poll could have far-reaching effects, including the withdrawal of a 1 per cent pay rise for both 2013-14 and 2014-15.

The union had deemed that pay rise acceptable and had also backed changes that would have improved terms for supply teachers. However, the ballot result has thrown the whole deal into doubt: Cosla warned afterwards that no member of the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers could "cherry-pick" parts of the overall package.

The result leaves teachers unclear about the impact of controversial recommendations in the McCormac report on pay and conditions, published more than two years ago.

In its members' magazine, the EIS had advised that rejecting the deal on working conditions meant that "other recommendations will come back into play and these will pose a bigger threat to teachers' conditions of service".

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said that the ballot result was a "clear rejection" of proposed changes to working conditions and "indicative of the mood of teachers who, after a two-year pay freeze, increased pension contributions and in the face of excessive workload, have simply said, 'Enough is enough.'"

But he added that no one wanted disruption in schools, "particularly at such a crucial phase in the implementation of Curriculum for Excellence".

Unlike the EIS, the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association did not conduct a ballot on the McCormac issues, and this week stressed that it still accepted the proposed salary package.

Acting general secretary Alan McKenzie said that at the union's annual conference earlier this year, members had decided that the proposed changes had safeguards and were "measured and reasonable".

Billy Hendry, human resources spokesman for Cosla, said that he was "very disappointed that our teaching workforce will now not have their backdated pay in their pay packets before Christmas".

He added: "The simple fact is that as employers we have put together the very best components of an offer in agreement with the unions and the Scottish government. The offer is a package and is not open to any one of the three parties to cherry-pick the bits that they like best and reject the rest."

In a short statement, education secretary Michael Russell said he was "disappointed" that EIS members had rejected the proposals.

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