Council celebrates consultative ballot success, executive authorises statutory strike ballot on pay.
The issue of pay once again dominated discussions at EIS Council, in its first meeting of the new session. Council met on Friday 16 September, with the consultative ballot on the pay offer and support for potential strike action set to close at noon.
President Andrene Bamford received the news of the ballot result by email shortly after the ballot closed, and announced the results to Council by adding the figures onto three specially prepared display boards – Voting YES to reject the pay offer: 94%. Voting YES to support strike action: 91%. Turnout: 78%.
As Council broke for lunch, there was a special meeting of the EIS Executive to consider the ballot result and to consider the next steps to be taken. The decision was that the EIS would formally reject the pay offer at the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers (SNCT) and move ahead with a statutory ballot for strike action in pursuit of an improved pay settlement for Scotland’s teachers.
Following the decision of Executive, President Andrene Bamford said, “Our members have responded magnificently throughout our pay campaign so far. They have voted in huge numbers in the consultative ballot, and have made their feelings crystal clear.”
“As we move ahead with the statutory ballot, we will need every member to step up again and vote for strike action. The government’s anti-trade union laws are designed to frustrate collective trade union action and to make achieving a legal mandate for strike action extremely difficult.”
“We need every EIS member to use their vote for strike action in the forth-coming statutory ballot as we continue our fight for a fair pay deal for all of Scotland’s teachers.”
Vice President Paula McEwan said, “Executive have agreed that we will move to a statutory ballot to further our pursuit of a 10% pay claim. We will use these ballot results to formally reject the offer at the SNCT and launch a dispute with our employers. Our indicative timeline has strike action likely to begin in November. Today’s result is a great relief all round but, come next week, we go again.”
General Secretary Andrea Bradley said, “This was an absolutely brilliant result that was revealed today. This tells us that our members in schools are thor-oughly engaged in this campaign. These results, with a quick calculation, tell us that about 70% of members balloted voted in favour of strike action. That is a powerful set of statistics. We had an early sense it might go like this. Within an hour of the ballot opening, 2500 members had voted. Over the weekend that rose to over 22,000. The figure since that first Monday climbed every single day since. The final result today is indicative of the strength of feeling the members hold. They have signalled to COSLA and the Scottish Government that they need to think again.”
Ms Bradley added, “There is a whole lot still to do. Although members have been snowed under with work and deal-ing with the cost-of-living crisis, they still took the time to read campaign materials and vote. My concluding message is thank you, well done everybody. But we don’t stop until we get a fair settlement for Scotland’s teachers.”
Council and Executive member Andrew Fullwood (Glasgow) said, “The message from this room must be that we, Scotland’s teachers, will take strike action unless we get a fair pay offer. If we take that action it has to be disruptive, it has to be sustainable, and it has to get their attention.”
Salaries Convener Des Morris, who chairs the Teachers’ Side of the SNCT, said, “I want to formally acknowledge the result on behalf of Salaries committee, we are delighted at the result. We are very grateful to every single member who has cast their vote in both questions in terms of the ballot. We don’t want to have to strike, and it should not have to take the credible threat of industrial action for COSLA and the Scottish Government to put together an accept-able pay offer. This result is a huge boost to the Teachers’ Side and negotiations, make no mistake of that, but do keep in mind that, in 2018, it was the morning the statutory strike ballot was due to open that we got our revised offer. We cannot assume anything here. For now, we have to proceed on the basis that no offer is coming and that we will have to drag it out from the Scottish Government and our employers.”
Following the consultative ballot result, and the subsequent discussions at Executive and Council, the EIS will now move ahead with the statutory strike ballot. This is scheduled to open shortly after this SEJ reaches members.
Vice President Paula McEwan provided an update on the Institute’s financial position, and on recent appointments to the EIS staff. Ms McEwan advised that a full staffing review of EIS structures was now underway, with the intention of ensuring that all areas of EIS work are adequately staffed. The Vice President also updated Council on the ongoing pay campaign, including a number of regional campaign rallies that were being held across the country.
Convener Susan Quinn told Council that the EIS continues to seek to be fully engaged in all aspects of the Hayward Review of qualifications and assessment, which is of vital importance to teachers and students across Scotland. The EIS also continues to attempt to engage with the SQA on all matters related to qualifications, assessment and appeals – “although the SQA may have other things on its mind at the moment”, said Ms Quinn, in reference to the agency’s pending replacement and an ongoing pay dispute with its staff.
Convener David Baxter welcomed recent donations to the EIS Benevolent Fund from five EIS local associations, EIS Financial Services, and from recent legal fee reimbursements.
Mr Baxter told Council that, over its past two meetings, the Committee had considered 38 applications for assistance and had authorised 38 grants totalling £108,450 to members in need. Mr Baxter also highlighted that this compared to 17 grants in the same period last year – a clear indication that the cost-of-living crisis was having a growing impact on EIS members.
Convener Nicola Fisher highlighted the recent letter from the EIS to the First Minister, calling for the rollout of free school meals to all pupils. Ms Fisher explained that the Scottish Government are still refusing to roll out free school meals to Secondary, and that the extension of free meals to P6&7 – scheduled to begin this year – has been delayed. “Poverty doesn’t stop at Primary 5. The Scottish Government could afford to feed all school pupils 5 days a week, but they are choosing not to. I think the only way for this to happen is for us to shame them into it”, said Ms Fisher.
Convener Des Morris outlined SNCT pay negotiations that have taken place until this point, including the most recent SNCT meeting requested by the Scottish Government. At that meeting, the EIS outlined what was necessary from employers and the Scottish Government for the matter to be settled – essentially, a greatly improved pay offer. At the meeting it was made clear that any notion of a differentiated offer is contrary to EIS policy and would be wholly unacceptable to the EIS.
Mr Morris also updated Council on the latest issues related to Covid guidance, including sickness absence for those suffering from Covid or long-Covid. Following concerns raised by the union side, guidance to local authorities on correct procedures for Covid absence were to be re-issued to councils.
Support for the Enough is Enough campaign
Council resolved to support the Enough is Enough campaign, launched recently by a number of trade unions and community organisations as a response to the cost of living crisis, following a Motion in the name of Susan Quinn (Glasgow).
Moving the Motion, Ms Quinn said, “Enough is Enough is pushing back against the injustice and inequality facing many people across the country. Each of their key priorities is aligned with issues on which the EIS has campaigned in the past. Affiliating will give us another platform to fight back against these injustices.”
Seconding the Motion, Donny Gluckstein (EIS-FELA), said, “Just look at what the new government is doing – we need to push back and say that enough is enough.”
Following Andrea Bradley being appointed as General Secretary, Anne Keenan has taken up the role of Assistant Secretary for Education and Equality. Anne originally joined the EIS in 2017 as our Further and Higher Education Officer, later moving to the post of Education Officer in 2020. Anne brings vast experience of Education to her new role, in addition to her highly polished legal skills and experience of casework, negotiations and disputes from her time as F&HE Officer.