COUNCIL LAUDS MEMBER ACTION ON PAY & LOOKS AHEAD TO NEXT STAGE OF CAMPAIGN
With the November meeting of EIS Council taking place the day after the first national teachers’ pay strike in four decades, there was only ever going to be one issue that dominated the agenda. Council members reflected on the hugely successful initial day of strike action, and considered the next steps to be taken in the campaign for a fair pay settlement for all of Scotland’s teaching professionals.
Opening the meeting, President Andrene Bamford said, “Before we start, it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge yesterday’s historic strike action. I would like sincerely to thank every member and activist, and every member of EIS staff, who contributed to the amazing success yesterday.”
In his report to Council, Salaries Convener Des Morris outlined the story so far in the pay dispute, and provided an update on the most recent developments.
Mr Morris started his report by echoing the sentiments of the President, saying, “I want to recognise the work of all our school Reps across the country in organising our successful picket lines across the country yesterday.”
Moving on to the process that led to the so-called revised 5% pay offer, Mr Morris outlined that a meeting of SNCT Extended Joint Chairs, held shortly before the strike action had been due to take place, had not resulted in an offer.
It had been reiterated to both the Scottish Government and COSLA the timeline to which the EIS was working, and the need for any revised offer to be timely if industrial action was to be avoided.
“None of us were fully prepared for the offer that was eventually tabled on the Tuesday of strike week, 30 minutes before a special meeting of Salaries had been arranged to discuss it”, said Mr Morris.
Mr Morris continued, “It seems clear that the Scottish Government called the SNCT Extended Joint Chairs meeting for two reasons – to probe us on our processes, and on how long it would take for us to consider an offer. Which is a bit rich, given the amount of time it has taken them to come up with any offer.”
“Secondly, they wanted to probe us again on our willingness to accept a differentiated offer – to which we remain wholly opposed.”
Mr Morris added, “The reheated 5% offer which finally came was considered, and unanimously rejected, by Salaries Committee in a little under an hour.”
Mr Morris then ran through the rejected offer in detail, highlighting how the majority of members would have received the same, or less, compared to the previous offer.
He said, “74% of teachers on the maingrade scale were being offered the same in this revised offer as in the last offer, which we had rejected overwhelmingly in a ballot.”
Allan Crosbie, (Edinburgh) asked, “What is the best mechanism for us to register our increasing lack of faith in COSLA and the Scottish Government, given their recent bad faith tactics and manipulation of the public narrative around the deal?”
And David Farmer (Fife) asked, “How do we send the strongest possible message from this meeting today that we are not having any more of their game-playing and bad-faith negotiations?”
Mr Morris replied, “We will absolutely call out bad faith. We have done it in the past, and we will continue to do it in the future. The manner in which things were done on Tuesday left a very bad taste in the mouth. I’m sure the General Secretary will also have plenty to say in the media, just as she has been doing since the offer was made public.”
Mick Dolan (West Dunbartonshire and Salaries Vice-Convener) said, “The revised offer is really just a piece of cheek. It starts saying that it is an undifferentiated offer…and then goes on to explain how it is differentiated. We need to hammer the Scottish Government over their use of Tory tactics by seeking to blame the workforce for cutbacks to public services.”
General Secretary Andrea Bradley provided an update on the campaign, and the next steps that had been agreed. Firstly, she highlighted that since the EIS announced its intention to strike over pay, more than two-thousand additional teachers had opted to join the EIS and total membership now stands at almost 65,000 across all sectors.
Ms Bradley said, “I want first to acknowledge the monumental day we experienced yesterday – a huge day in the history of the EIS. Every single person in this room was instrumental in the successful strike day we experienced yesterday.“
It is only (at the time of speaking) 15 days since we received the result of our statutory ballot – and look how much has happened since then.
“It was probably a surprise to the Scottish Government and COSLA that we achieved the amazing statutory ballot result that we did – they were pinning their hopes on us not achieving a strong ballot mandate. They were absolutely wrong.”
Looking ahead to the next steps in the campaign, Ms Bradley said, “Two further national days of strike action have been agreed for January – one for primary and one for secondary – and these were announced last week.“
We are in the process, today, of issuing strike notices to local authorities for a further 16 days of strike action – on a paired local authority basis – for January and February. This will send another strong and clear message to COSLA and Scottish Government that this dispute is not going away, and that Scotland’s teachers are prepared to fight for a fair pay settlement.”
Summing up the pay campaign thus far, Ms Bradley added, “From the huge turnout at picket lines, to the massive numbers at our regional rallies, the many thousands of photos and videos and campaign messages on social media and the huge amount of media coverage of the strike on TV and radio, in newspapers and online – the EIS strike and the EIS pay campaign certainly grabbed the attention of members, parents, politicians and the public.
“The way that the revised offer was submitted, and the way the Scottish Government and COSLA orchestrated that and abused the helpful information we had given to them about the timing of our meetings, was either inept and incompetent; or malevolent and vindictive – or possibly a combination of all of these things.
The Scottish Government and COSLA made a serious miscalculation – they tried to take the wind out of our sails with their cynical and divisive offer, and their dishonest presentation of that offer did the exact opposite. Their actions have galvanised our members, and made our members even more determined to do what is necessary to secure a fair pay settlement for all teachers.”