TEACHERS across Scotland will take part in a nationwide strike for the first time in 25 years, joining millions of public-sector workers across the UK in a protest against pension reform.
The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), Scotland’s biggest teaching union, said its members had voted overwhelmingly in favour of joining a UK-wide day of action on 30 November.
The vote means Scottish teachers will take part in a national walk-out for the first time since 1986 and the industrial unrest of the Thatcher government.
The EIS said its members’ patience had been exhausted following a “wide-ranging attack” on pay, pensions and education budgets.
But education secretary Michael Russell criticised the strike, and a leading parents’ group said teachers would struggle to find sympathy for their position outwith the profession.
In a ballot of its 55,000 members, the EIS said 54 per cent voted, with 82 per cent in favour of a strike.
Ronnie Smith, general secretary, said: “This 82 per cent vote for strike action is the strongest indication so far that the patience of teachers and lecturers has been exhausted. Faced with a wide-ranging attack on their pensions, on top of a two-year pay freeze, rampant inflation and education budget cuts, our members are signalling that enough is enough.
“Teachers and lecturers are highly committed professionals who do not decide lightly to strike – it is more than two decades since the last national strike action. However, the pensions triple-whammy of being compelled to pay more, work longer and get less has to be challenged.”
He welcomed a revised offer from the UK government this week, which ministers described as the “chance of a lifetime”.
However, Mr Smith added: “The EIS will continue its engagement in all available forums to try to secure a fair pensions settlement for our members.
“In the meantime, we will go ahead with our plans to join the national day of action on 30 November.”
The EIS decision came a day after the Association of Headteachers & Deputes in Scotland (AHDS), which represents primary heads, said its members would also join the national walk-out on St Andrew’s Day.
Other teaching unions, including the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association (SSTA), the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) and the NASUWT are also balloting members.
This week, the UK’s largest public-sector union, Unison, said its members, ranging from school dinner ladies and refuse collectors to teachers, NHS staff and civil servants, would take part in the walk-out.
The strike, expected to be the biggest for decades, comes amid complaints that reforms of public-sector pensions will see workers forced to pay more in contributions and work longer.
Eileen Prior, executive director of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, said the EIS move was unlikely to win support from families.
She said: “Parents are telling us they are not supportive of strike action – parents all over Scotland are suffering in this economic downturn and feel teachers must be mindful of that reality.”
While the matter is reserved to Westminster, the Scottish Government has said it must implement the changes or face losing £100 million a year it receives from the UK government.
Mr Russell said: “It is with regret that I hear the results of the EIS ballot on industrial action.
“While I agree with their campaign in response to the UK government proposals for public-sector pensions, I don’t agree with their method – strike action is not in the best interests of pupils or parents. I join with them in urging the UK government to think again.”