With The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), the country’s largest teaching union, taking aim at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar's e-Sgoil project, which had been widely praised over recent years, the cost of opposing the EIS is being driven home by another battle with the SNP-led Dundee Council.
The EIS has issued a legal strike notice to Dundee Council over the authority’s plans to introduce a faculty structure in its secondary schools. An initial day of strike action will take place on June 22 across all of Dundee’s Secondary schools. This will come in the same week as the rail workers strikes which are expected to cripple large parts of the UK railway network
Following the Council’s decision to press ahead with its plans, and to announce the recruitment of Faculty Heads in the media this week, the EIS has now withdrawn an invitation to the Lord Provost to speak at the EIS Annual General Meeting (AGM) which starts at Dundee Caird Hall tomorrow, Thursday.
The EIS AGM is regularly held in Dundee, and says it is worth around £1 million to the local economy, but the EIS may now review its association with the city.
EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan said, “Dundee Council’s plans would remove the vital experience offered by subject specialist principal teachers from our schools, with long-term damaging consequences for education in Dundee and for the young people in its schools. Teachers do not take strike action lightly, but they will do so to defend the quality of education for Dundee’s young people.”
Mr Flanagan continued, “The EIS is extremely concerned by Dundee Council’s announcement that it will press on with its plans, despite the clear opposition of the city’s teachers.
"The Council’s press statement, which seems to have been deliberately planned to coincide with our AGM arriving in the city this week, is a further act of provocation that will only add to teachers’ anger.
"In these circumstances, it is inappropriate for any official of Dundee Council to address the AGM, and the EIS has now withdrawn its invitation to the Council. The EIS Executive may also seek to reconsider its established practice of regularly holding AGMs in Dundee.”
"We call on SNP-led Dundee Council to recognise its own party's endorsement of school empowerment, to suspend its provocative recruitment process, and to engage in constructive negotiations with teacher representatives.”
Presaging another wave of unrest in the public sector, GMB Scotland has this week attacked “failure at all levels of government” as an industrial action ballot across local government got under way on Monday (6 June) against a 2 per cent pay offer and swingeing cuts to local jobs and services.
Nearly 10,000 GMB members in waste and cleansing and schools and early years services will be asked if they back strikes in the face of a pay offer from employer body COSLA amounting to less than £10 a week for staff earning under £25,000 a year.
Joint trade unions in local government wrote to the First Minister and the Finance Secretary last week seeking urgent talks and warned about the consequences for council workers of significantly below inflation pay with the cost of living at a forty-year high.
The ballot, which runs throughout the summer until Tuesday 26 July, also takes place amid dire forecasts for local government budgets following the Scottish Government’s spending review plans.
GMB Scotland Senior Organiser Keir Greenaway warned: “Council workers and the vital services they deliver are firmly in the sights of Kate Forbes’s cuts agenda, and if left unchallenged the lowest paid will pay the highest price in the biggest cost-of-living crisis for 40 years.
“This is what years of failure at all levels of government looks like – a decade of failed austerity, the passing on of cuts to communities, and a meek acceptance of the consequences locally.
“It shows everyone there are no political superheroes and if you want wages that confront soaring inflation then you need to organise and fight for it. That’s exactly what our members are doing and unless an improved pay offer is tabled then industrial action looks inevitable.”
In the battle with CnES over e-Sgoil, the EIS states: "E-Sgoil is not a presenting centre, it is not a school. It should not be used to undermine physical teaching and learning in the Western Isles."
And it rejects the idea that older pupils in the smaller secondary schools should be encouraged to study additional subjects remotely.
The EIS quotes as CnES claiming that ‘pupils will benefit from digital and hybrid models of learning’ with an adult being present in the room whilst classes are taught online.
The union rejects that claim that “given that many Senior Phase pupils are old enough to get married, vote, drive etc. being able to engage in remote learning within the safe confines of a school is a skill and discipline which should not be beyond them.”
The union says: "We believe this is a ludicrous statement which sidesteps many of the Comhairle’s statutory duties and responsibilities to our pupils."