A pay dispute that requires a fresh approach
THE ongoing dispute over teachers’ pay is serving nobody well, least of all the pupils who depend on the service and the parents whose taxes fund the schools.
Like many industrial relations rows, the disagreement comes down the money. The unions, with some justification, argue that salaries for teachers have fallen back to unacceptable levels as a result of austerity.
The Scottish Government and Cosla, the council representative body, are mindful of other staff groups who will get a lot less than 10 per cent. A 3% offer is on the table.
However, Cosla and Education Secretary John Swinney have also promised to rework the main pay grading scale for teachers, a move that will add another bump to salaries.
A direct letter from Swinney and Cosla to teachers, which infuriated the unions, claims that the offer would give some teachers more than 10%. The EIS is highly critical of the offer and strike action looms.
But the Government and Cosla should stand their ground. One of the reasons for the impasse is the hostility of the unions to a differentiated deal – they want every teacher, regardless of income, to get a 10% rise.
As the EIS limbers up for strike action, the union should also consider the optics of how its pay claim looks to the taxpayer. Very few, in the private or public sector, could dream of a 10% rise. It is unlikely the public will believe teachers have been so uniquely disadvantaged that this deal is merited.
The unions should make a revised claim to Government and take industrial action off the table. A fresh approach may even be welcomed.