Saturday, June 09, 2012

The class struggle

Members the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), Scotland's largest teachers union, yesterday voted in favour of fighting austerity measures in a renewed campaign which could lead to industrial action in the autumn. The union backed motions calling for action to protect the profession from public sector cuts and oppose changes to their pensions being made by the UK government. While pension reform 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. Last November, Scots teachers took part in a UK-wide strike over pension changes – the first nationwide walkout by the profession in Scotland since 1986.

In a scathing attack the newly-elected EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said  “We understand that it is the UK government, the coalition, that has been the driving force behind the attempt to make teachers pay more, to work longer and to get less. We know who the guilty are in this great cash robbery. But we have a clear message also for the Scottish Government and for Mike Russell, the cabinet secretary for education, in particular. You cannot hide behind the coat-tails of some Eton toffs and say, ‘It wisnae me’. Scottish teachers expect the Scottish Government to stand up for Scotland on this issue and if they fail to do so, if they fail to deliver a fair settlement on pensions here in Scotland, we are prepared to fight them every bit as hard as we will fight the UK coalition government on this issue...There is a simple choice: fight the cuts or fight us, because we are not minded to pay the price for the greed of others.”

Mr Flanagan said Westminster’s austerity measures had been “firmly rejected” by voters. Local elections in May made it clear “not only in Scotland but across Britain, that the UK government’s austerity programme has been decisively rejected”. Mr Flanagan said: “It is clear that what the electorate wants is for elected politicians to fight back against austerity and not to simply administer a cuts programme." Teaching was a stressful profession, he said, adding: “The suggestion that teachers should stay in the classroom till they are 68 or even longer is not a credible notion and it is one we will resist: 68 is way too late.”

Charlotte Ahmed, a union member from Glasgow, said: “This is theft. It’s a smash-and-grab. They’re taking money out of our pockets and putting it where exactly? The autumn is the time to turn the screw and commit ourselves to action.”

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