By Marios Kalomenopoulos, IMT Edinburgh
The political situation in Scotland has been rather quiet, recently, however this superficial stability hides important changes that are developing below the surface. The unions response to the proposed budget from the SNP government is one such expression.
The two biggest teacher’s unions in Scotland, EIS (Educational Institute of Scotland) and SSTA (Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association), who together represent more than 60,.000 workers, voted massively in favor of taking industrial action if the budget proposal for payment rises doesn’t change. The same path was followed by council workers, who threatened to strike if the pay rise is not sufficient enough, to cover a part of the real 15% wages cut of the last 10 years. These developments come after the recent action, a few months ago, for a pay rise from NHS workers.
In its draft budget, the SNP government announced a 3% rise for workers earning less than £30,000 and a 2% increase for those on more than this, including teachers and council workers. Of course, this couldn’t improve the living conditions of thousands of workers who saw their living standards fall directly because of austerity measures and indirectly by inflation and products price rises. This is also emphasized by the recent OECD study on teachers’ pay, that shows a real wage decrease of more than 10% in Scotland since 2005.
This threat from the unions has clearly had an affect on the government who with extra pressure from Green MSPs pressured Derek MacKay, the Finance Secretary to submit a new budget deal with an additional £170 million for public sector demands, which should now cover more than 75% of council workers and the majority of the teachers. This is of course a positive development and clearly reveals the power of the organized working class. However, teachers and the other public sector workers should stay alert. Gains under capitalism and especially a capitalism in deep crisis can only be temporary. Apart from that, we should be clear that the new pay rise doesn’t cancel the cumulative decrease of standards of living of the past years and the unions should prepare actions to demand more. Therefor, we call for:
- Greater pay rises to the public sector! Pay rises that are continuously adjusted to inflation changes!
- Fewer working hours, new hirings in order to fight unemployment!
- Collaboration between trade unions. Educate the rank and file on the need for industrial action until the mood is right to strike!
- Fight austerity! Make the capitalists pay for their crisis!