Teachers to strike before exams day
JACKIE GRANT Dumfries and Galloway teachers are preparing to join the first national strike since the Eighties.
And they could stage a walkout just a day before the beginning of crucial exams.
The Educational Institute of Scotland union formally rejected a pay offer by Holyrood education minister John Swinney on Tuesday, said to be worth nine per cent by April with a further three per cent next year.
EIS members voted 57 per cent to 43 per cent to turn it down.
They have demanded a oneyear, 10 per cent rise, arguing that teachers have received belowinflation increases in the past few years.
Union officials have recommended teachers now stage a statutory ballot for industrial action on March 11 with a potential walkout on April 24. Higher, Advanced Higher and National 5 exams are due to start on April 25.
Teachers last staged strike action in the 1980s when they targeted Conservative constituencies in an attack on the Tory government.
EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said after a negotiating meeting yesterday: “At the meeting, we presented the recent EIS ballot result and indicated our intended move to a statutory ballot for strike action.
“This provides clear evidence of the need for the other parties to improve the offer in order to gain acceptance from teachers. We also reiterated that the EIS is continuing to seek a negotiated settlement, that we were willing to meet at any time and that strike action would be a last resort.”
Mr Flanagan continued: “Both COSLA and the Scottish Government confirmed that they were keen to keep talking and that they too wished to see an agreement being achieved. All sides agreed to reflect on the issues raised and to meet again next Monday.”
The council umbrella body CoSLA and the Scottish government have both said that they want to see a negotiated settlement.
They have described the existing pay offer as the most generous in the UK public sector but indicated they were open to finding ways of dealing with issues such as teacher workload.
Mr Swinney said: “Industrial action in any of our schools would not be in the interest of teachers, young people or parents.”
Despite scheduling a walkout the day before exams, Dumfries EIS secretary Andrew O’Halloran said he believes teachers have the backing and sympathy of members of the public.
He added: “No-one wants to take industrial action but teachers feel the situation has been going on and on and we’re at the end of our tether.
“Withdrawing their labour is becoming the only option for teachers to try to partially restore their lost earnings and alleviate the situation.
“Teaching is becoming an ever less attractive career prospect, particularly in rural areas like Dumfries and Galloway.
“Whenever there’s industrial action in a school, it does have an impact. However, we’re trying to reduce the impact on pupils as much as possible but also make a point at the same time.”
Offer Minister John Swinney
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Backing Andrew O’Halloran