Section 51 — Abolition of Scottish Joint Negotiating Committee for School Education

Standards in Scotland's Schools etc Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 5:15 pm on 7th June 2000.

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Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour 5:15 pm, 7th June 2000

We now move to amendment 42, which is grouped with amendment 45.

Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan Independent

Since lodging amendment 42, I have been informed that it has the support of the Educational Institute of Scotland, so I should perhaps declare an interest in that I am a member of the EIS. However, I make it clear that I do not receive any money from the EIS—indeed, any financial transactions are in the opposite direction by way of membership subscriptions.

Section 51 proposes to abolish the Scottish Joint Negotiating Committee, which was established under section 91 of the Education Act (Scotland) 1980. During the past 20 years, the SJNC has helped to bring about some significant improvements, including the establishment of maximum class sizes at a time when similar arrangements were unheard of in other parts of the United Kingdom.

The SJNC has the support of the main teachers' unions. It is not perfect, but it provides a statutory framework in which negotiations take place. It is not surprising that many teachers were very angry when the Scottish Executive took the unilateral decision to abolish the SJNC, which was an example of deplorable industrial relations.

The Scottish Executive is asking teachers and Parliament to buy a pig in a poke, because we do not know what will take the place of the SJNC. Last week, Professor McCrone's committee reported and recommended collective bargaining through a national bargaining committee. In some respects, that national bargaining committee might be rather similar to the SJNC, although it need not have a statutory basis. However, we do not yet know whether the Scottish Executive will accept that recommendation, because it has not given its official response to Professor McCrone.

The very least that the Scottish Executive could do is to keep the SJNC in existence until such time as the Executive produces proposals for a new negotiating mechanism. At present, the only mechanism that is available is the SJNC, and it would be foolhardy of the Scottish Executive and Parliament to abolish it.

This is a sensitive period for the teaching profession, the relations between teachers and their employers and the relations between teachers and the Scottish Executive. In the crucial weeks and months that lie ahead, teacher negotiations will dominate as the McCrone report is digested and acted upon. To abolish the only existing mechanism for negotiations would be not only foolish, but it could be provocative. Therefore, I appeal to the Executive to think again.

I move amendment 42.

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

I am afraid that the clock is against us once again. I am forced to move straight to the minister.

Photo of Peter Peacock Peter Peacock Labour

Amendments 42 and 45 were debated and rejected by the Education, Culture and Sport Committee during stage 2 debate.

Section 51 removes the statutory basis of the SJNC, while leaving in place existing agreements—its effect is to abolish the SJNC. Abolition of the SJNC is necessary because it has patently failed teachers, parents and the pupils in our schools. The breakdown in negotiations over last year's millennium review demonstrates that the SJNC was incapable of modernising the terms and conditions of teachers and of giving us a teaching force that is able to deliver the improvements to education that we all want and need. The employers' side of the SJNC—half of the SJNC—agrees with our position.

The committee that we established under Professor McCrone has reported and has recommended a national bargaining authority that has no statutory authority and which is backed up by an independent body that would carry out three-yearly pay reviews. During the negotiations that will take place over the summer the question of future negotiating and pay machinery will be considered with the trade unions.

The McCrone recommendations require careful consideration and further discussion with employers' and teachers' representatives. The continued existence of the SJNC as a statutory body with responsibility for teachers' pay and conditions would seriously impede discussions on those and other recommendations in the McCrone report. Therefore, we cannot support amendments 42 and 45.

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

The question is, that amendment 42 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 11

For: Adam, Brian, Campbell, Colin, Canavan, Dennis, Cunningham, Roseanna, Elder, Dorothy-Grace, Ewing, Dr Winnie, Ewing, Fergus, Ewing, Mrs Margaret, Fabiani, Linda, Gibson, Mr Kenneth, Grahame, Christine, Hamilton, Mr Duncan, Harper, Robin, Hyslop, Fiona, Ingram, Mr Adam, Lochhead, Richard, MacAskill, Mr Kenny, Marwick, Tricia, Matheson, Michael, Morgan, Alasdair, Munro, Mr John, Neil, Alex, Paterson, Mr Gil, Reid, Mr George, Robison, Shona, Russell, Michael, Salmond, Mr Alex, Sheridan, Tommy, Sturgeon, Nicola, Swinney, Mr John, Ullrich, Kay, White, Ms Sandra, Wilson, Andrew
Against: Aitken, Bill, Alexander, Ms Wendy, Baillie, Jackie, Barrie, Scott, Boyack, Sarah, Brankin, Rhona, Brown, Robert, Chisholm, Malcolm, Craigie, Cathie, Curran, Ms Margaret, Davidson, Mr David, Deacon, Susan, Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James, Eadie, Helen, Fergusson, Alex, Finnie, Ross, Galbraith, Mr Sam, Gallie, Phil, Gillon, Karen, Godman, Trish, Gorrie, Donald, Grant, Rhoda, Gray, Iain, Harding, Mr Keith, Henry, Hugh, Home Robertson, Mr John, Hughes, Janis, Jackson, Dr Sylvia, Jackson, Gordon, Jamieson, Cathy, Jamieson, Margaret, Jenkins, Ian, Johnston, Nick, Johnstone, Alex, Kerr, Mr Andy, Lamont, Johann, Livingstone, Marilyn, Lyon, George, Macdonald, Lewis, Macintosh, Mr Kenneth, MacKay, Angus, MacLean, Kate, Macmillan, Maureen, Martin, Paul, McAllion, Mr John, McAveety, Mr Frank, McCabe, Mr Tom, McConnell, Mr Jack, McGrigor, Mr Jamie, McLeish, Henry, McLetchie, David, McMahon, Mr Michael, McNeil, Mr Duncan, McNeill, Pauline, McNulty, Des, Monteith, Mr Brian, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Mulligan, Mrs Mary, Mundell, David, Murray, Dr Elaine, Oldfather, Irene, Peacock, Peter, Peattie, Cathy, Radcliffe, Nora, Raffan, Mr Keith, Robson, Euan, Rumbles, Mr Mike, Scanlon, Mary, Scott, Tavish, Simpson, Dr Richard, Smith, Elaine, Smith, Iain, Smith, Margaret, Stone, Mr Jamie, Thomson, Elaine, Tosh, Mr Murray, Wallace, Ben, Wallace, Mr Jim, Whitefield, Karen, Wilson, Allan, Young, John
Abstentions: Watson, Mike

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

The result of the division is: For 33, Against 82, Abstentions 1.

Amendment 42 disagreed to.