On Thursday, January 31st Good Morning Scotland broadcast an interview. Presenter Hayley Millar interviewed Finance Secretary John Swinney.
The interview centred on the amended pay offer the Scottish Government had offered teachers. At the time of the interview two teachers’ trade unions – the EIS and STA – were about to ballot their members on the improved offer.
Below are the seven questions posed to Mr Swinney by the Good Morning Scotland presenter followed by analysis of each question. At the bottom is a recording of the full interview, including Mr Swinney’s answers.
Q1 “Do you accept that teachers in Scotland aren’t happy?”
A rather idiotic loaded question. It is so general that it isn’t worth asking. Aren’t happy with what? Their job? Their salary? Their lives? How do you begin to answer such a vacuous question?
Q2 “So do you accept that they’re not happy […] they’re not happy at their work?”
A repeat of the first idiotic question. Why repeat this? Was the interviewer hoping for a response that could generate a controversial headline? ‘Swinney admits teachers aren’t happy’ or ‘Swinney claims teachers happy’.
Q3 “Do you accept that they feel undervalued?”
This is a variation on the first two questions. Thus far the interviewer has refused to ask anything about the improved offer. Three questions have been wasted by an interviewer with some kind of agenda.
Q4 “But unions say […] well if you do, why don’t you listen to what the unions are saying that their members don’t believe the payrise is sufficient to compensate for falling levels of pay in recent years against the cost of living and that it doesn’t compensate for the other issues that they have in their workplace? Things like, as you mentioned, the drop in classroom assistants, the cuts to special support workers for children with special needs. You’re not … it’s not compensating sufficiently for the othjer factors.”
It’s becoming clear that the interviewer isn’t remotely interested in finding out about the improved pay offer. The claim that teachers don’t believe the payrise to be sufficient is not justified, because teachers haven’t yet voted on it. Millar is confusing the EIS recommendation with the views of actual teachers. These aren’t necessarily the same. Moreover the STA trade union hasn’t taken a stance on the improved pay offer.
Q5 “So are you happy for it to go to a vote to ballot for strike action if that’s what it takes?”
Whoah … what strike ballot? The teachers have yet to vote on the improved pay offer. Trade unions will only ballot for a strike if a majority of their members reject the offer. Millar appears again to be confusing the recommendation of the EIS [based on a close 47-45 vote] with the outcome of the vote on the pay offer.
Q6 “But unions say and individual teachers have said and have been quoted in various media during the run-up to this point that it’s not enough. So if you’re not prepared to budge on the pay issue, would you budge on the money or on more resources for teachers?”
One trade union [EIS] has said the improved offer is not enough. One [STA] hasn’t taken a stance. We have no idea what teachers say on this. We’ll only know when they are balloted on the improved pay offer. John Swinney has budged on the issue. If he hadn’t then there wouldn’t have been an improved pay offer.
Q7 “But that was the vote and the EIS are representing the result of that vote. But are you saying the vote was so close that you are content that if it were to go to a ballot for strike, that you think teachers would not vote for that?”
The EIS is indeed reflecting the result of its own internal vote amongst its officials. The smaller STA trade union has been airbrushed out of this interview. Both trade union will only ballot for strike action if a majority of members reject Jown Swinney’s improved pay offer.
That Hayley Millar didn’t ask one single question about the improved pay offer is disgraceful. That pay offer is the most generous pay offer in the public sector not just in Scotland, but across the entire UK. The Good Morning Scotland presenter clearly didn’t want to go there. Why? Well hours after the interview news emerged that teachers pay in England is to be capped at 2% next year. Oh, and you may have noticed that the last five questions were asked as John Swinney was speaking. Millar interrupted each time.