Classroom strike looms

EDUCATION chiefs at Scottish Borders Council (SBC) will meet on Monday to discuss how to deal with a proposed strike by the area’s teachers.

Schools across the Borders are set for a day of disruption on Wednesday, November 30 after 82 per cent of Scottish EIS members voted in favour of industrial action.

Though it is unknown how many members in the area took part in the ballot over pensions, EIS Borders branch secretary Kay Miller said: “There are still negotiations going on but I think the decision to take strike action shows that teachers are at the end of their tether. This is the last resort.”

The EIS balloted its members over UK Government plans to increase pension contributions while reducing the amount teachers will receive in retirement.

Ms Miller added: “I think the overwhelming feeling is that we have got to lay down a marker about this, otherwise in two or three years time, they could ask for a contribution again.”

If the strike goes ahead, it will be the first walk-out by the Borders’ teaching profession for 25 years.

An SBC spokesman said: “Senior education officials are meeting on Monday to discuss the potential impact of any strike action, and will also be meeting with headteachers in due course.”

EIS General Secretary Ronnie Smith added: “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.”

Scottish Government Education Minister Mike Russell, said it was regretful that the EIS membership had decided to take industrial action.

He commented: “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.”