The victory of Scotland’s teachers in securing a 13.51% pay rise (over three years) highlights the strength and power of organised workers. As previously reported in Revolution, teachers in Scotland have been involved in a highly protracted pay dispute. Unions have campaigned for a 10% pay rise 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.
By Amy Dean, Glasgow Marxists
COSLA’s (national association of Scottish councils) first offer dates 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.
In the new year there was 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 would fund. This offer gave 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 would be affected by a pay grade restructuring, it was actually far less as only 3% was backdated to April 2018 with the other 3% backdated to January 2019. This offer was rejected at the EIS ballot with 57% of members voting to reject the offer and move to a ballot on industrial action.
At this point the Scottish Government was facing its worst fears of a teachers strike actually being realised. With the clock ticking the government returned to the table with a new offer just days before the ballot on strike action was set to begin. This offer consisted of a pay grade restructure, a 3% increase from April 2018, a 7% increase from April 2019 and a further 3% increase from April 2020. Meaning that teachers would see a minimum increase of 10% in April 2019 and 13.51% over the three years. The EIS recommended acceptance of the deal and members voted overwhelmingly (98%) to accept it in the subsequent ballot.
It is to the testament of the campaign that teachers have fought that the Scottish Government felt the need to intervene in the first place and then to improve on its initial offer. It is no coincidence that the new pay proposal was made around the same time as the statutory ballot for strike action was set to open. The victory of the teachers undelines the power of the working class when it is organised for industrial action. Over the course of a year they went from a 3% pay deal to a 13.51% increase over three years. This highlights how much impact the even just the threat of a strike can have. The victory of the teachers should be highlighted to workers across Scotland, many of whom are facing low and below inflation pay, as a key example that shows: when we fight, we can win!
Employers in both the public and private sector may claim that they cannot afford to give everyone the pay increase that the teachers have won and that in their case it was only possible due to the importance of their jobs and political sensitivity around education. 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.