The 126th STUC Annual Conference opened on Monday 17th April 2023 in Dundee Chaired by President Pauline Rourke.
There was a strong EIS delegation this year which included EIS President and delegation leader Andrene Bamford.
There was a packed three-day agenda where delegates debated over 100 motions and emergency motions, and the EIS delegation made valuable contributions to the debates in several motions throughout.
Henry Kilgour spoke first from the EIS delegation on composite motion B in support of maintaining trade union rights. They remain under attack and further threat from the Westminster Bill which must be defended at all costs.
Past President Heather Hughes spoke in support of the motion on long-covid, reminding delegates that teachers staffed school hubs in the early days of lockdown to allow other essential workers to work and sections of the economy to continue functioning. Furthermore, teachers were in schools mixing in large numbers under different mitigations to the rest of society, many months before restrictions were lifted across the country, teachers were at risk and at work.
Nuzhat Uthmani, Chair of the Glasgow BAME Network spoke in support of the motion on online abuse and shared candidly, hers and colleagues’ experiences of suffering horrific racist online abuse while carrying out parts of their teaching roles on decolonizing the curriculum. Eddie Burns debated on motion “The Freedom to Disconnect” describing various platforms like Google Classroom and Seesaw which keep educators switched on long after the workday ends.
Nicola Fisher then moved the first of the key motions for the EIS, motion 27 “Poverty and Education” urging the Scottish Government to put more financial resources towards reducing poverty and the attainment gap. The motion passed comfortably.
Mark Smith spoke in support of motion 28 “A better Deal for Workers” reminding delegates of the impossible task of completing a teacher’s workload in the contractual 35 hours. Sheila Waddell debated in support of the motion on schools and Public Library Services which passed.
On day two, President Andrene Bamford spoke on the second key motion for the EIS, composite B “Fair Taxes to Fund Public Services” saying, “We need more transparency of Scottish Government spending while schools and all public services are struggling with the strain of underfunding”. Furthermore, Mick Dolan supported composite D “The Cost of Living Crisis” reminding delegates that the people elected to look after us make political decisions that keep the poorest poor.
Adam Sutcliffe supported composite E “Defend Cultural Workers – Public Funding for Creative Industries,” telling those gathered, “Music is quite simply joyous, working-class young people who get the opportunity to play music can change the world with their talent. Cuts to the arts are a cut to life blood”. Anne-Marie Harley of EIS-FELA gave a rousing speech in support of composite I “Public Sector Pay Strategy, “We [FE] are the Cinderella service and we should not be funded on buttons!”
Susan Quinn then spoke on the EIS’s third key motion of congress, amended motion 41 “Public Sector Budgets and Resourcing of ASN.”She said, “To plan for and support children with additional support needs and the teachers who teach them, we simply need more funding!”.
Past president Carol Thorpe approached the podium to speak in support of free period products closing the EIS contribution on day two of Congress.
Day three continued apace with plenty of contribution from the EIS delegation. Adam Sutcliffe rose to the podium again supporting composite N on anti-racist workplaces, Susan Quinn on motion 99 “Afghanistan and Women’s Education” and again on behalf of General Council on amended motion 111 “Referendum Third way” which was withdrawn, and a GC statement was adopted.
There were a number of emergency motions once the main business had been worked through. Nick Cimini of EIS-ULA approached the podium in support of sister Union UCU and emergency motion 3 “University Marking and Assessment Boycott and Punitive Deductions” Urging all to support UCU in their fight. EIS-FELA’s Anne-Marie Harley moved emergency motion 4 “Fighting for The Future of FE” by asserting that “FE is an essential service for those experiencing barriers to education and it must be invested in and protected from cuts”. The motion was carried.
Susan Quinn took to the podium for the final time at Congress to eloquently move emergency motion 6 “Fighting for Teachers in Hutchesons’ Grammar School” outlining that management at Hutchesons’ are forcing their teaching staff to give up their membership of the Scottish Teachers Pension Scheme and into an inferior defined contribution scheme using the tactics of fire and rehire. The rallying call was to support Hutchesons’ EIS and NASUWT members in their fight to reverse management’s decision which drew applause from those gathered in the delegation hall.