Is the threat of a teacher strike about politics or pay?

For as long as I can recall the EIS has threatened a teacher strike in Scotland.  The first I seem to recall was in 2008, a year after the SNP won its first Holyrood election [see image].

The strike threat ran in parallel with claims from the EIS that teachers were facing compulsary redundancies due to cuts to local authority budgets.

There was another strike threat from the EIS in 2009.  This time the union cited class sizes as justification.  Since then threats of a strike by the EIS has seemed like an annual event. Below are some examples.

In 2011 it was pensions

In 2012 it was pay

In 2015 it was workload.

In 2016 it was exams.

In 2017 it was pay.

The point is that the EIS threatens strike action at the drop of a hat.  The threats are always headlined by the media, especially BBC Scotland.

The recent threat is by far the most bizarre.  Why?  Because the EIS is urging its members to take industrial action despite being offered the best public sector pay award in the UK.

The Scottish government initially offered a three per cent minimum pay rise for teachers, with those at the lower end receiving a whopping eleven per cent.  According to teaching magazine TES.com:

The biggest rise in the proposed new deal is planned for teachers on point three of the scale, who will usually have been in the job for three years; overall, they would receive an 11 per cent rise, sources say.  The smallest planned rise is for the teachers at the top of the scale, who would receive a 5 per cent pay rise overall.

This meant that a teacher on a salary of £30,7014 would receive a 11% pay rise.  A teacher on £36,480 would receive a 5% payrise.  Higher earners, including staff earning up to £80,000 would receive a minimum of 3%.

Most folk working in the public sector would give their right arm for such a pay award.  But it was rejected by teachers who were urged to do so by the EIS.

An improved offer was made on Thursday by John Swinney who said: “Under this scenario, teachers would receive a minimum 9% increase between January 2018 and April 2019 and a further 3% rise in April 2020.”

The Scottish government said its additional contribution to restructure the pay scale would see all teachers on the main grade scale receiving at least a 5% increase in 2018-19, which would be backdated to April last year.  Some teachers would receive 11%.

The EIS rejected the improved offer.  The union wants an across the board increase of 10%.  On Saturday the union announced it would be holding a strike ballot.  Ballot papers are to be issued this month.

Will teachers vote to strike?  If they did, some would be voting to hand part of their Scottish government pay increase to higher earners.  Those who’d get 11% if they accepted the Scottish government’s offer, would instead get 10%.  Do teachers earning £88,056 really need an extra £8,800 a year to make ends meet?

Teachers, like nurses, do a tough job in tough conditions.  Like the NHS, police and firemen, we need them.  Like other public sector workers, they have been hit hard by Tory austerity.  The public was on their side when they marched last year.  But public support cannot be taken for granted.

This is a very good deal.  In England and Wales teachers received an award nowhere near as generous as that being made by the Scottish government.  Teachers south of the border will receive a maximum not of 11% … but 3.5%, with most receiving not 5% … but between 1.5% and 2%.

Some have suggested the strike threat by the EIS is political.  Recent behaviour by trade unions in Scotland would lend credence to this suggestion.  The antics of unions over the Glasgow Council Equal pay row appeared designed to help Scottish Labour attack the SNP.

When former trade union official Richard Leonard became leader of the Scottish Labour party, a spate of trade union stories suddenly appeared across the Scottish MSM.  Trade unions have appeared particularly agitated in recent months.

There may be nothing to the theory.  EIS chief Larry Flanagan may indeed be trying to call the Scottish government’s bluff in a bid at increasing the pay of his members.  However with Nicola Sturgeon having made clear she wants to be judged on the closing of the attainment gap, it’s easy to see how a teacher strike would help SNP opponents.

Meanwhile Scotland’s children face the prospect of teachers going on strike having rejected a pay award that every other public sector worker in the UK can only dream of.

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11 thoughts on “Is the threat of a teacher strike about politics or pay?

  1. jim steven

    When I was a firefighter for 30 years part of your union dues was a ‘Political Levy’ which was paid directly towards the Labour Party.

    Being a supporter of Indepedence all my life I enquired if this ‘Political Levy’ could be paid to whichever Party you supported.The answer was a resounding NO.The only option was to opt out of the political levy which I immediately did.

    All of the trade unions are affiliated to the Labour Party.

    1. A teacher

      The EIS is not affiliated to Labour and £0 of the political fund is given to the Labour Party. Please check your facts before making such accusations.

    2. Dave Simpson

      Not so. My TU, Prospect, is not affiliated to Labour or any other party. It does collect a voluntary political levy, but that is used to build up a political fund in readiness for the UK government, under Thatcher’s anti-TU laws, ever declaring a particular action of the Union “political” and thus unable to be funded from the Union’s normal resources.

  2. bringiton

    If it is political,probably a strong element of,then it could well backfire on the British Labour party.
    Many older people still remember the beer and sandwiches at No.10 days and have no desire to see that return.
    I strongly believe in the rights of workers to form trade unions and to have representation on company boards but Blair and his cronies finished forever the idea that the Labour party represents working people.
    The link between Labour and the trade unions is based on that fallacy and is simply there to give union activists a career path towards the £300 a day plus expenses in the HoL (the ultimate goal).

  3. A teacher

    Couple of points. The EIS pays ZERO to the Labour Party!

    Secondly, the EIS hasn’t rejected John Swinney’s offer as he tweeted – only cosla cn make the offer to unions which John states in his tweet!!

  4. Jockanese Wind Talker

    COSLA are packed full of Ref Tories and ALL British Nationalist Councils whether majority or coalition administrations will refuse to pay teachers the Scottish Governments award whilst blaming the SNP despite teachers pay being local authority responsibility.

  5. Clydebuilt

    Since Richard Leonard (ex organiser for the GMB in Scotland) became the leader of the Labour party in Scotland, trades Unions have orchestrated a rise in action by members in Scotland.
    The EIS is following the same line.

    I believe that the EIS are pushing for a greater rise in wages than teacher Unions in any other part of the UK?

    Larry Flanagan was a GCC Labour Councillor, and tried to stand for the party as an MP.

  6. Jockanese Wind Talker

    Most of the Unions in Scotland are subsidised like the Scottish Branches of the BritNat Political Parties in Scotland are.

    They don’t have the members to pay so get cash from South of the Border.

    It’s one of the reasons Trades Union Office Bearers are more likely to be pro- UK Union.

      1. Jockanese Wind Talker

        I know they only operate in Scotland Peter.

        This is why my comment starts with the statement:

        “Most of the Unions in Scotland”.

        Allegedly EIS and Scot Gov both want to resolve the situation but that Labour council leaders are the problem.

        The best public sector pay deal going to be scuppered just in time for wage stagnation and the associated living expenses rise due to Brexit.

        Are The British Nationalist Labour Party in Scotland prepared to treat EIS Trades Union Members (and their families) as collateral damage in the persuit of EssEnnPeeBaaad in defence of the UK Union?

        I would be interested to know your take on this as apparently EIS is emailing to member citing the Labour COSLA votes as a risk that the Scot Gov’s improved pay offer might not be made.

        Is this the case?

        1. Jockanese Wind Talker

          Should read:

          The best public sector pay deal In the UK (including Labour run Wales).

          persuit = pursuit

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