By Amy Dean, IMT Glasgow
As previously reported in Revolution, teachers in Scotland have been involved in an ongoing pay dispute. Unions have campaigned for a 10% pay rise in 2018/19 on the basis that teachers’ pay has fallen by 24% in the last ten years in real terms whilst workloads have become even more stressful.
The dispute has been highly protracted with COSLA’s (national association of Scottish councils) first offer dating back to March 2018. This initial offer was 3% for teachers, 2% for those in promoted posts and £1,600 for those earning £80,000 or more. This was rejected by unions and COSLA then came back with was described as a final offer in September 2018. The new offer was for the same pay increases but also included a pay grade restructure. Following this over 30,000 people demonstrated in Glasgow in October 2018 to support the 10% campaign. The offer was soundly rejected in a ballot in November 2018 with 98% of EIS (the main teaching union in Scotland) members voting against.
Since the new year there has been an updated COSLA offer, which was rejected by the EIS as for the vast majority of members it gave no improvement in 2018/19 to the offer rejected in the ballot. The Scottish Government then stepped in with a new pay offer, which it says it will fund. This offer gives a headline increase of 6% for 2018/19. But, apart from probationers and those who have been working as qualified teachers for less than one year, who will be affected by a pay grade restructuring, it is actually far less as only 3% is backdated to April 2018 with the other 3% backdated to January 2019. The offer also includes 3% increases in 2019/20 and 2020/21. Unions are currently balloting on this new offer with the EIS Council narrowly voting to recommend rejection.
It is to the testament of the campaign that teachers have fought that the Scottish Government has felt the need to intervene. It is no coincidence that the new pay proposal was made around the same time that the EIS authorised a statutory ballot for strike action. We support the EIS in their recommendation to reject the deal. Teachers’ pay has fallen at a disastrous rate and the Scottish Government stepping in to make the offer shows how much they fear industrial action. Now is not the time to lose momentum.
For the SNP there is also fear around losing face and popularity, they have campaigned as a party of the Scottish people, claiming to be anti-austerity and supporting the rights of workers, they are therefore particularly keen to avoid strikes and to be seen to be generous. This is yet another issue that has highlighted the growing cracks in the ability of the SNP to try and balance its need to appeal to workers whilst also refusing to step out of the confines of capitalism and make any radical change.
At the same time as the teachers’ pay dispute, college lecturers in Scotland have been on strike, again over pay. The dispute is over cost of living pay increases, which lecturers have not received since April 2016. The EIS is campaigning for an increase in line with that agreed for college support staff and across the public sector. However, colleges have looked to link cost of living increases with pay increases that lecturers have received as a result of pay harmonisation in recent years. Pay harmonisation has been introduced so that lecturers across all colleges in Scotland will be paid the same; previously there were substantial differences. This means that lecturers who have received pay increases as a result of harmonisation are not entitled to the same level of cost of living pay increases. As said by the EIS, this is a false conflation of two separate issues. Industrial action was overwhelmingly supported by lecturers with 90% voting to strike. So far strike days have taken place in January and February with a further two days planned for March.
We support the action of both teachers and lecturers in their fight for better and fairer pay. The difficulties faced by those working in the education sector and the current shortage of teachers is well documented and stresses have continued to pile in the context of ongoing austerity. Teachers and lecturers deserve fair pay that reflects the importance of the work that they do. The Scottish Government, COSLA and colleges may claim that they cannot afford to make the pay increases that workers are demanding. At Revolution we say that the working class has paid for a capitalist crisis it did not create through service cuts and real term wage falls for the last ten years. There is another way. Vast amounts of wealth exists in private hands. Under socialism we would expropriate the private wealth of the corporations and bring it into the hands of the many in order that we can all have access to decent pay, services and standard of living.