TEACHERS have voted “overwhelmingly” in three local authority areas – Glasgow, Fife and West Dunbartonshire – to declare a formal school safety dispute.
In the face of the continuing threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, they say employers are struggling to provide workers with a healthy working atmosphere.
91 percent of teachers favored strike action in West Dunbartonshire, with a turnout of 75 percent. 93 percent of teachers voted in favor in Glasgow, with a turnout of 63 percent. In Fife, 90% of teachers voted in favor, with a turnout of 53% .
The largest teachers’ union in Scotland, EIS, argues that existing initiatives in schools around the country to protect pupils and staff from coronavirus are inadequate and that more distance learning should take place before and after the Christmas holidays.
A transition to distance learning for a few days around Christmas time has been suggested by the union.
It claimed that local groups would call for a “urgent response” from affected city governments to the concerns of members.
“These votes are clear evidence of teachers’ fears about school covid safety. The First Minister today cited rising infection rates in parts of the country and hinted that some areas may have to go down to Level 4 – all the more likely if there is an increase in infection rates after Christmas.”
“We have seen schools in Wales switch to distance learning to reduce infection rates, and in Scotland there is not a single additional safeguard for schools, not even at level 4. Teachers want schools to stay open, but not at any cost. Both the Scottish government and local authorities should be transparent about the benchmarks that would trigger a move to distance or blended learning.”
Two days ago, in a conflict with its local authorities, the EIS said six of its branches would move to take union members to the polls.
Another four branches were considering whether that step could also be taken.
In all three local authorities, the Scottish Greens promised their support to teachers.
Scottish Green education spokesperson Ross Greer, whose Safe Schools reforms were passed last month by Parliament but are yet to be adopted by the Scottish Government, called on ministers to take urgent steps to resolve the severe safety issues of teachers across the country.
I’m not shocked that teachers voted the way they did and they have the full support of the Greens for this, said Ross Greer MSP, who represents West Dunbartonshire, “As I told Parliament last month, extremely vulnerable teachers were forced back into classrooms against the advice of their GPs, many teachers are not even informed when one of their students tested positive and, as predicted, many teachers are not even informed.”
During this pandemic, the Scottish Government has let teachers and pupils down at every level, failing to give them routine testing, transferring the mammoth burden of track-and-trace exercises onto schools themselves without supplying the additional staff they urgently need, and delaying imminent decisions on anything from face masks to exams in 2021.
“The House passed the Green Party’s Safe Schools proposals a month ago to avoid exactly this kind of dispute, a dispute that teachers did not start lightly but are entirely justified in fighting. The Education Minister needs to listen to teachers’ concerns and act as Parliament has instructed him to do.”