Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/659/11250
Scotland: defending teachers' jobs
"Let me say clearly to Renfrewshire Council. If you attempt to replace teachers with untrained staff then we will take our children out of school." These words, by Stephen Wright, chair of Renfrewshire parent council, were met with thunderous acclaim by the 800 parents and teachers packed into Paisley town hall and by the 350 people outside listening via loudspeakers.
A Renfrewshire teacher and EIS member
This meeting followed a 450-strong EIS teachers' union meeting of teachers and parents just a few days before. It came from a spontaneous outpouring of anger of opposition to the attempt by the SNP-led council in Renfrewshire, west Scotland to save £1.2 million by cutting teachers' hours and replacing them with lower paid, seasonal staff. These staff would work on 'cultural, citizenship and sporting learning activities'. This would result in the loss of 60 teaching posts.
Insult was heaped on injury when the council claimed that this move would actually 'improve' educational provision. If they had deliberately set out to create a tidal wave of opposition then they could not have done a better job.
Needless to say the Labour party hierarchy turned out in force to condemn the Nationalist administration. However, their patronising hypocrisy was swiftly punctured.
Speakers from the floor questioned Labour's intentions if they came to power after the Scottish parliamentary elections in May and the Scottish local elections next year. They did not condemn the Labour controlled councils throughout Scotland who are making similar savage cuts to education and other public services.
An EIS spokesperson said that while teachers did not wish to strike, the EIS would take every action necessary to defend jobs. This came on the back of an indicative ballot of teachers for industrial action which produced a 97% 'yes' vote.
In a few short weeks the political situation in Renfrewshire has been transformed.
We were warned that other local authorities were watching to see if Renfrewshire council would get away with such an attack on their local community. But what has happened is that other parent councils and anti-cuts groups have taken confidence from the fightback in Renfrewshire. Other local authorities will tread much more cautiously now.
Clearly the next step is to build for effective strike action, if the council refuses to back down, and to build the anti-cuts movement.
Postscript: Following a huge mobilisation of parents, teachers and the community the SNP-led Renfrewshire Council have been forced to back down over planned cuts to teachers jobs. This example should be used as widely as possible to highlight what determined opposition to cuts can achieve
In The Socialist 23 February 2011:
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party youth and students
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party feature
Socialist Party workplace news