By Jim Halfpenny, West Dunbartonshire EIS (personal capacity)
An incredible 98% of EIS members (the main teachers’ union Scotland) have voted to reject the employers 3% pay offer. The turnout was unprecedented at 74%. What an answer to SNP education minister John Swinney who, along with the local government employers, tried to bypass our union by writing to every teacher explaining to them how wonderful their pay deal was.
As the EIS statement rightly explained: “Today’s near unanimous rejection of the pay offer is a landmark result, one of the strongest rejections of an offer in EIS history, and one which is indicative of the current mood of Scotland’s teachers, increasingly agitated on pay but angry also at excessive workload, mainstreaming on the cheap, and austerity driven cuts to resources.”
The EIS must now proceed with an official ballot for strike action for our 10% pay demand. Which is less than half the 24% the average teacher has lost in pay over the last 10 years.
This outstanding result comes on the back off 30,000 EIS members, comprised of teachers from right across Scotland together with parents, children and supporters of Scottish education, bringing Glasgow to a standstill on October 27 in the biggest march of teachers in Scottish history.
Marchers assembled in Kelvingrove Park before marching to George Square for a major rally in support of the EIS Value Education, Value Teachers campaign. The march stretched for well over 2.5 miles from end to end.
What an answer to the utter contempt, in a pre-planned and coordinated move, from COSLA and the Scottish Government who have walked away from talks on teachers’ salaries.
Once again leaving us with a “take it or leave it” derisory and divisive offer of 3% cost of living increase while challenging our determination to do something about it.
The recent OECD report, “Education at a Glance” confirms what we already know. Scotland’s teachers work longer hours with less preparation time for less pay than most teachers in other OECD countries.
In the 10 years since the rich and privileged bankers kicked the economy into the dustbin our salaries have declined in real terms by 24% based on average inflation of around 3%.
Unfortunately, we don’t live in the world of average inflation. We live in the world where, in the last 10 years gas prices have increased by 190% and electricity prices by 120%.
In January 2007 the price of petrol was 87.4p per litre. Today it is £1.33 per litre. Diesel was 92.3p per litre. Now £1.38 per litre. Between March and July of this year bread prices rose by 20%. At the same time tax relief to big business in the last 10 years…£717 billion…up 84%.
The massive EIS pay demo in Glasgow was central to a campaign which now must quickly see a ballot for strike action on the back of what will be an overwhelming rejection of this insulting 3% pay offer.
Strike ballot now!
We do not have the time or need for an indicative ballot. We should proceed to an official ballot now.
The message is clear. Austerity is punishing teachers and damaging education. We are not prepared to be punished for the mistakes of the banks and the obscene profits of “big business”.
Teacher recruitment is facing a crisis. Schools across Scotland are struggling to recruit teachers. Improving pay will attract more people into teaching.
Despite cuts in teacher numbers and resources, teachers have gone the extra mile to protect pupils at a time of significant curricular change and new qualifications.
Workload and stress have soared which has significantly contributed to the 40% of teachers who are considering leaving the profession.Pay is critical to the retention of teachers.
This year has seen a surge in teachers over the age 45 leaving early. Scotland’s college lecturers recently secured a new pay structure, with a top of the scale salary of more than £40k for classroom lecturers.
This was achieved by threatening management with a series of rolling strikes. The EIS must threaten similar action. An official ballot must be held within the next few weeks and a clear strategy for strike action must be brought to every teacher in the land.
This is the struggle for the future of Scottish education Austerity is a political choice which has been used to justify large cuts in public services including education.
According to Larry Flanagan, General Secretary of the EIS, “a political choice was taken to cut teachers’ pay in this country – and this has been a decision with serious consequences for Scottish education.”
A successful demand for 10% should not be regarded as some gift from COSLA and the Scottish Government. 10% is a fraction of what has been stolen from us and our families in the last ten years and we want it back.