Argyll and Bute’s teachers “exhausted” by wage rise battle

Thousands of teachers marched in Glasgow over pay in October.
Thousands of teachers marched in Glasgow over pay in October.

The Argyll and Bute branch of Scotland’s biggest teaching union says that the patience of the area’s teachers is “exhausted” in their battle for a wage increase ahead of possible industrial action.

William Hamilton, the Argyll and Bute EIS representative, was speaking after the union confirmed it is to move towards a ballot of its members across Scotland on industrial action.

Talks have been taking place on a pay deal for some time, with the Scottish Government and council umbrella body COSLA claiming its current offer is the best it can afford.

The offer sees a three per cent increase or a flat rate increase of £1,600 in 2019/20, depending on salary, with a further three per cent to follow over the next two years. But teachers are looking for a 10 per cent increase over a single year, with a march taking place in October in Glasgow.

Mr Hamilton said: “The decision to move towards balloting our members for strike action has not been taken lightly. Our preference has always been to agree a fair deal through negotiation.

“We have been negotiating on a fair pay claim that was due to be settled last April. Teachers’ patience is now exhausted as the latest pay offer from the Scottish Government and COSLA remains largely the same as that overwhelmingly rejected in the consultative ballot of last year.

“While our ‘Value Education, Value Teachers’ campaign is primarily about reversing the decade-long real terms decline in teachers’ pay, our campaign has also been to expose that this deterioration in pay has created the current recruitment and retention crisis facing Scottish education.

“Schools in many areas are now struggling to attract sufficient numbers of highly qualified teaching professionals into the classroom. Graduates can earn more in less stressful jobs and are choosing to do so.

“In addition to a shortage of new entrants, a growing number of experienced teachers are choosing to leave the profession early – worn down by a combination of factors such as crippling workload demands and declining levels of pay.”

Mr Hamilton added that the EIS had carried out a survey concerning the ongoing issues affecting teachers.

He said: “Discontent over levels of pay featured strongly, as did concerns over excessive workload demands and their impact on health and wellbeing.

“The fact that more than 75 per cent of teachers frequently feel stressed at work and 70 per cent of respondents stated that they would not recommend teaching as a career is worrying news – for teachers, for pupils and for Scottish education.

“It is this toxic combination of soaring workload, high levels of stress and declining pay that has created the high levels of dissatisfaction felt by many teachers.

“The unparalleled march of 30,000 teachers and their families in Glasgow last year in support of the campaign is a demonstration that teachers are at breaking point.

“All of these issues must be addressed to ensure that Scotland’s education system can continue to meet the needs of learners in the future.

“We have made clear, however, to both Scottish Government and to COSLA, that despite setting in motion the process of an industrial action ballot, the EIS remains open to an improved offer at any point prior to the actual ballot papers being issued. If an improved offer is made before ballot papers are issued, then the strike ballot will be suspended and members will be consulted on the revised offer made.”

Announcing an improved pay offer Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “In light of concerns raised about the position of the significant number of teachers already at the top of the main grade pay scale, the Scottish Government is prepared to improve its offer around main grade restructuring and revaluation of all other SNCT pay scales. The Scottish Government will provide the extra funding, which is in addition to the Local Government settlement.

“Under this scenario, teachers would receive a minimum nine per cent increase between January 2018 and April 2019 and a further three per cent rise in April 2020. This is a clear indication of our commitment to recruit and retain teachers and I urge the teaching unions to consider this favourably so that parties can bring discussions to a conclusion.

“I made this proposal to the EIS last Thursday (January 17). It is an enhanced offer and I will ask COSLA to agree this and to formally offer it to unions after January 25. I believe this must be put to teachers for their consideration.

“I welcome the agreement by EIS to allow further time to reach an agreement. Industrial action is in no one’s interests not least our children and young people. That has been my focus and will continue to be until this resolved.

“I welcome the move by EIS to allow further time to reach an agreement.

“Industrial action is in no one’s interests not least our children and young people. That has been my focus and will continue to be until this is resolved.”