Teachers and lecturers in Shetland will be joining a host of teaching colleagues and other public sector workers in taking industrial action next Wednesday.
EIS (the Educational Institute of Scotland) members have voted to take part in the nationwide day of action which will see more than a million UK workers walk out in protest over changes to public sector pensions.
EIS Shetland branch secretary Bernie Cranie said the coalition government’s proposed changes would result in a real-terms pay cut of more than eight per cent for teachers, lecturers and other public sector workers – on top of a two-year pay freeze and other suggested cuts to terms and conditions for teachers.
Mr Cranie said: “We do not want to strike – this will be the first national strike action by teachers and lecturers for a quarter of a century – but we have been driven to this by continuing cuts to public services and sustained attacks on the living standards of public sector workers.
“We hope that parents, students and the wider community in Shetland will understand that we are taking this action as a last resort. Teachers and lecturers are continuing to do their best to provide a quality education for learners under very difficult conditions, but now their goodwill is being eroded by continuing attacks on their employment terms and conditions.”
He said the latest “attack” on pensions would force teachers and lecturers to pay more, work longer and receive poorer pensions. Increased employee pension contributions would be equivalent to an average 3.2 per cent cut in pay, he said. At a time when inflation is over five per cent, this would “equate to a real-terms pay cut of well over eight per cent for every teacher and lecturer in Scotland”.
Mr Cranie continued: “We are taking this day of action in defence of public services and those who work in these services. We believe that our schools, colleges and universities and our pupils and students deserve the best.
“But this cannot be delivered on the cheap. There must be proper investment in our public services and fair pay and conditions, including pensions, for the public sector workers who deliver them.”
Mr Cranie added that EIS members hoped parents and the wider community would support the day of action.
The SIC schools service said last week that it expected most island schools would be shut next Wednesday, with the possible exception of small primaries such as Skerries, Foula and Uyeasound.
Meanwhile, EIS Shetland executive member Irvine Tait has rejected Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael’s suggestion that pension reforms were “unavoidable”.
In a letter to this newspaper, Mr Tait said the pension contribution increases were “simply a tax aimed at addressing a budget deficit caused by greedy bankers and the inept political class that failed to regulate them”.
Mr Tait stated: “In the days ahead we will no doubt hear a good deal of union-bashing from members of the Con/Dem coalition. It is of course easy to lecture the public on the need to make sacrifices when you are sitting on a gold-plated pension and know that your expenses will be picked up by the taxpayer.”