Union meets to decide on teacher strike action

Marchers in George SquareImage copyright

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Thousands of teachers marched in Glasgow last October

Scotland’s main teaching union is to hold talks on whether to call a strike over teachers’ pay.

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) will hold two days of meetings to decide if it should ask members if they want to take industrial action.

Unions want a 10% rise to help with what they describe as restoring the value of teachers’ pay.

But employers argue the deal they are offering is the most generous in the public sector in the UK.

The executive of the EIS will discuss their ongoing pay rise campaign later, and then on Saturday the union’s national council is expected to decide whether to call a ballot of its members.

Pay deal

Last year the EIS and other teacher unions tabled demands for a 10% pay rise over one single year.

The Scottish government and councils argue its proposal, staggered over three years, is the best they can afford.

The three-year deal offers a 3% pay increase for those earning up to £80,000 in 2018/19, with those at or above that level receiving a flat rate increase of £1,600.

Then in both 2019/20 and 2020/21 teachers would get a further 3% rise.

The Scottish government said its additional contribution to restructure the pay scale will see all teachers on the main grade scale receiving at least a 5% increase in 2018/19, which would be backdated to April last year.

Some teachers would receive up to 11% in one year in conjunction with annual progression.

Further talks

The government and councils have urged unions to put this offer to their members.

Talks earlier this week between the unions, councils and the government have not led to a new offer so far, and further talks are due to take place later this month.

One topic for debate at the EIS meetings is likely to be whether to hold a legally binding strike ballot just now – or go for a consultative ballot which is less complex to organise in the hope that even the growing threat of action could be a powerful negotiating tool.

A consultative ballot would give an indication of the strength of feeling of members and demonstrate how they might vote in a later, legally binding ballot.

Before teachers could go on strike, at least 40% of those entitled to vote would need to back action in an official ballot. The turnout would need to be at least 50%.

The last widespread industrial action by Scottish teachers over their pay and conditions was in the mid-1980s.

A lengthy work to rule had a serious impact on school sport, extra curricular activities and the introduction of Standard Grades.

While most schools were affected by strikes during this dispute, secondary schools in Conservative constituencies were targeted. EIS members at those schools regularly went on strike three days a week.

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