At the time this SEJ was being written, EIS members across the country were concluding 16-days of rolling strike action across the country. The support from members to the ongoing programme of action has been magnificent, with an increasing number of teachers on picket lines and at campaign demos and rallies throughout the dispute.
Sadly, it looks as though the Scottish Government and COSLA have either failed to notice or failed to care about the plight of Scotland’s teachers, and the impact of the ongoing dispute on education provision in Scotland’s schools.
Support for teachers amongst parents, pupils and the wider public is high, with a wide range of polls and surveys indicating continuing support for the action that teachers are taking. A recent survey by the National Parent Forum of Scotland found that parents overwhelmingly supported teachers striking for an improved pay settlement, as did a separate poll in a right-wing national newspaper.
Despite this strong support for the campaign, and the clear case for an improved pay settlement for Scotland’s teachers, both the Scottish Government and COSLA have adopted a head-in-the-sand approach to recent negotiations. While the union side is keen to reach a resolution, and has offered a range of alternative solutions in negotiations, these have all been rebuffed by the other sides of the SNCT.
We have heard much in recent weeks about the Scottish Government ‘turning over every stone’ to find a solution, and frequent talk from government Ministers about how ‘positive’ pay talks have been. In reality, recent discussions have been anything but positive. The Scottish Government and COSLA have brought absolutely nothing new to the table, but have instead continued their propaganda campaign in the media.
As a result of the refusal of the Scottish Government and COSLA to negotiate in good faith, the EIS Executive Committee took the decision to escalate the industrial action to include targeted strikes in the areas represented by key decision makers, including the First Minister, Deputy First Minister, and the Cabinet Secretary for Education.
This was an action that the EIS was reluctant to take, but the targeting action was used successfully in the 1980s when the targets were members of the UK government under Margaret Thatcher. With education now a fully devolved matter, it is now Scottish Government ministers who are being targeted, along with the education spokesperson of the coalition partner Scottish Greens and the resources spokesperson for COSLA who represents local authorities in pay negotiations.
Although some people have claimed that this is a party-political action, this is absolutely not the case. The EIS has no party-political affiliation, and is taking this action solely in the best interests of its members. The political views of those being targeted was never a consideration – the EIS is targeting those who make the decisions and hold the purse strings in pursuit of an improved, and fair, pay settlement for Scotland’s teachers.
The targeted action, together with the ongoing programme of national strike days and the planned second 20-day rolling action across the country, will heap further pressure on the Scottish Government and COSLA to settle the dispute. The EIS remains ready, willing and able to negotiate a fair agreement – but first, a new and improved offer needs to be put onto the table.