Dundee SSP

Scottish Socialist Party branches from Dundee

Striking for a living wage at Stow College

Posted by alangdundee on 16th October 2011

by Richie Venton, SSP national trade union organiser

Low paid canteen and cleaning staff at Glasgow’s STOW college are staging a series of strikes.
These UNISON members are winning massive support from teaching staff (EIS members) and students, as well as the wider public. Queues form daily to buy their sizzling solidarity sausages, at the elaborately decorated ‘tent’ the pickets have mounted outside the college gates!

In a petty act of intimidation – which entirely backfired and only served to harden the strikers’ resolve – college top management called out the police and then council environmental services, to check if the food was up to hygiene standards! Of course it is; these are catering staff, who know what they’re doing – and are collecting generous donations to sustain their strike, which is what management really object to.
At the heart of the dispute is the struggle for the extremely modest Scottish Living Wage (£7.20 an hour) and against privatisation of cleaning and catering.

As one of the pickets told me, We are taking the selective strike action because the union can afford to pay us on strike days – which goes to show just how low paid we are!

I spoke to a steward about the issues behind the strike, and what fellow-trade unionists can do to help them win a speedy victory.

The context of this is last year’s Budget announcement by John Swinney that low paid workers, as a minimum, should be protected against the worst excesses of the recession. He asked for this to be done by the unions showing pay restraint but with workers employed by public bodies earning under £21,000 being given £250, and the Scottish Living Wage being guarateed, which is now £7.20 an hour.

We have at least 20 members on about £6.63.

Last year STOW college management said they would give the Scottish Living Wage this year and in return we took another below-inflation wage settlement.

UNISON and the EIS jointly proposed a package of savings for the college, including the £80,000 hospitality budget; overseas travel not linked to income (including Board meetings and management taking their families abroad for awards events); bringing the graduation in-house instead of sumptuous affairs at the Royal Concert Hall; contractors and consultants being replaced by our own workers doing the jobs; and an end to Board of management events, with overnight stays, at expensive hotels.

Management’s reply was ‘No’ to all that.

STOW is a college that lost significant numbers of staff. We have faced cuts to courses, carried out under the radar, such as Special Needs Provision being cut by half; fewer part-time student places for people seeking asylum; an end to the part-time photography course.

In this year’s pay round we asked for three things: the Scottish Living Wage immediately; a pay rise for the rest of our members; and guarantees against privatisation of any areas of the service.
‘No’ was the management reply!

They said they don’t have the money now to implement the Scottish Living Wage – which we calculate would cost only £7,000 to £8,000. They also imposed a pay freeze and privatisation of the remainder of cleaning and the canteen.

We showed that this is a nonsense, that it would cost the college money as private companies would take money out of the college, rather than make savings.

For two years UNISON led the Hands Off STOW campaign, to save the college from potential closure, saving the necks of senior management in the process. This is our reward: pay cuts, low pay and privatisation of the people who helped save the place.

So we balloted for industrial action in June, with an overwhelming vote to strike. Management did nothing over the whole summer to find a settlement, so here we are taking strike action.

Last week, after the first day of strike action, management promised a meeting this week to discuss our alternatives to out-sourcing and to seek a resolution to the dispute. But instead of meeting with us, they hit us with the announcement that the cleaners will be out-sourced on 1st November and Catering on 1st January.

Their reasons are cynical. They want to out-source jobs to avoid paying the Scottish Living Wage, as private companies are under no obligation to pay it, and to downgrade and slim down the workforce in preparation for the future. And that is something other colleges will probably try to repeat, with worsened services, terms and conditions eroded … your starter for ten!

We have written an open letter to John Swinney and Mike Russell to intervene.

We have full strike action on 25th and 26th October where we hope supporters will call at our picket lines.
Write to MSPs, MPs and councillors backing our claim, against management who are neither consulting nor negotiating with us, just informing us of their decisions – because nobody is putting the brakes on them.


Posted in Strike, Trade Unions | No Comments »

Half a million march together…

Posted by alangdundee on 13th April 2011

Now Strike Together!

By Richie Venton, SSP national workplace organiser

It was a human flood that clogged up the streets of London for several hours.

The biggest demo, by far, in the UK since the 2003 marches against the Iraq invasion.

The biggest trade union-led demo for several generations, some say for a century.

Half a million strong, loud, proud, colourful and determined to fight the cuts.

All ages represented, from kids in buggies to pensioners; veterans of many marches, complete newcomers on their first ever; mostly public sector workers, but supported by big private-sector contingents.

Overwhelmingly working class, an almighty display of the potential power of the organised trade unionists in this country; a devastating rebuttal of the sneering jibes and whingeing pessimism about the ‘death’ of the workers’ movement in modern Scotland and Britain.

Marchers were still trying to leave the assembly points four or five hours after the head of the march had arrived in Hyde Park . This was a mammoth display of unity and working class solidarity, attracting tens of thousands of young people not in a union, boosted by the sheer scale and sense of power on the streets.

The TUC’s 26 March demo against the cuts was a decisive turning point in the battle to save benefits, pensions, jobs, pay and public services from the millionaire assassins trained on the playing fields of Eton and Oxbridge. At least 10,000 Scots made the horrendously long trek by train and bus, from every corner of the country (including Shetland!) and from every section of public sector workforce – plus students, claimants and community campaigners.

What next?

The critical question on most people’s lips then (and since) was: what next? How can this powerful force be turned into an unbeatable army of resistance to the butchers of Westminster, Holyrood and local councils?

On the train from Glasgow , for instance, we held a succession of discussions – lasting four hours there and at least two hours on the return journey – with groups of workers on every coach, from every union present, where we discussed ideas on how to build on the TUC mass march.

Virtually everyone, from trade union veterans of struggle to new fighters, was wide open to the suggestion of a one-day public sector strike, as we advocated in the SSP leaflet and the Voice. The only real dissent was from Scottish Prison Officers’ Association members – who thought it didn’t go far enough!

Coordinated strike action

Everyone echoed the SSP’s view that the TUC demo should be just the start, a launch-pad to go into workplaces, communities and colleges with the call for further action – including coordinated strike action, as spoken of in resounding speeches at TUC conference as far back as last September.

Likewise, all those we discussed with shared the SSP’s opinion that there is absolutely no excuse for any cuts; that there’s more than enough wealth around, but that we need to tax the rich and make them pay for the crisis they and their system created – instead of attacking the poor and the working class, who played no part in causing the economic crisis.

This openness to a clear-cut plan of action and a principled socialist alternative to the cuts was confirmed by the response to speakers at the TUC Hyde Park rally. The more hard-hitting the speech, the warmer was the reception. And perhaps the best received of all was PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka’s demolition of the excuses for cuts from tax-dodging millionaires, and his call for those who had just marched together to now strike together.

The enemy prepares

The employers and their vicious puppets in government are deadly serious about imposing the cuts and preparing for a showdown with workers and their families, in mortal fear that they face mass resistance. That upper-class fear and ruthless preparations have increased with the spectre of mass resistance displayed on 26 March.

Already reports have leaked out of plans to use the army against potential industrial action by prison officers. Tories like Boris Johnson and others more outwardly serious have called for bans on the right to strike in essential services (which of course they refuse to deem ‘essential’ when it comes to cutting them!). NHS bosses have let slip their plans to build up a strike-breaking force of volunteers in case their staff revolt against cuts to their pensions and jobs. And the Coalition is discussing “a war plan” on how to resist coordinated strike action across the public sector by use of the existing anti-union laws and the enlistment of a scab army to replace strikers.

Workers prepare for action

It is high time the national trade union leaders made similarly serious preparations.

The response to their call to demonstrate is a sure sign of people’s readiness to resist the cuts, given even half a lead, especially if it is not restricted to one union or one workforce, but coordinated across the board.

And already, several sections of workers are squaring up for action, balloting for work-to-rules and strikes on issues such as pensions – a common form of cut that lends itself to helping the unions coordinate common days of strike action.

The fifth-biggest union in the country, PCS, is about to ballot 250,000 public service members for strike action, in June, on pensions, jobs and pay. They are seeking coordination in their action with teachers’ unions UCU and NUT, and others.

EIS members are up in arms at a deal with COSLA being recommended by their national leadership – the same leadership who marched through London just days before – which would include a 47 per cent pay cut for supply teachers, a cut of two-thirds of training time for probationary teachers, a two-year pay cut of 10 per cent, and removal of payments to teachers on maternity leave or falling ill during annual leave.

NHS workers – contrary to the charming lies of Cameron, Clegg, Nicola Sturgeon and NHS bosses – are facing drastic cuts; £60m of them this year alone in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board.

Council workers are starting to feel the full force of the savage cuts, despite the pre-election delaying tactics by the SNP government.

Royal Mail workers face devastation if the planned privatisation of the service goes unchallenged.

Education is particularly in the firing line – which helps to explain why UCU members have been on strike, EIS members been on several rallies to stop college/university cuts, and why students have staged some of the most daring anti-cuts deeds to date.

STUC: name the day!

The role and duty of the trade union leaders who had the influence to muster a monster march of half a million weeks ago is to now pull together the different strands of struggle. They should give a lead, and name the day for a simultaneous strike across the entire public sector against the simultaneous attacks from all the governments of all the various pro-business parties.

Such a stoppage would dwarf even the impact of the biggest trade union-led demo in a century. It would hammer a wedge into the Demolition Coalition, whose retreats on woodlands privatisation and some benefits cuts have already shown how vulnerable they are to mass pressure.

One golden opportunity for such a call to ‘strike together after marching together’ is the forthcoming STUC conference.

Last week’s NUJ national conference passed a powerful anti-cuts motion, including the call for a 24 hour general strike against the cuts. A similar motion should be agreed at the STUC, and then a concerted campaign launched to explain and convince Scotland ’s 600,000 public sector workers that they can and should defeat the cuts by staging such united action.

Combined with direct action exposing the tax-dodging corporations whose wealth could pay for the protection of public services several times over, and occupations of threatened facilities in communities and colleges, united strike action could not only halt the cuts, but rock the entire Millionaires’ Cabinet.

United action – and socialist arguments

The fight against the cuts is also an ideological battleground. All four mainstream parties – Tories, LibDems, SNP and Labour – accept the case for cuts. They only fight over the scale and timing of the butchery, not the principle, not the fact there is absolutely no excuse for any cuts.

In contrast, the Scottish Socialist Party stands four-square with everyone prepared to resist the cuts, whilst arguing the case for measures to prevent any need for any cuts.

We have exposed the £120billion a year tax that is avoided, evaded or uncollected from big business and the rich.

We have exposed the simple fact that the 100 richest Scots have combined wealth of £16.4bn, which means a modest 10 per cent wealth tax on just these 100 parasites alone would raise £1.6bn – far in excess of the vicious cut to Scotland’s block grant, imposed by Westminster, spinelessly passed on by the SNP government, implemented by a rainbow coalition of cutters from all four mainstream parties in Scotland’s 32 councils. For 12 years, we have championed abolition of the Council Tax and its replacement by an income-based Scottish Service Tax, which could raise an extra £1.6bn this year for local jobs and services.

And we have spearheaded the case for democratic public ownership of the vast fortunes stashed away in the banks, big business and utilities, as a means of freeing it up for the construction of a clean, green, nuclear-free, poverty-free socialist Scotland .

In the looming Holyrood elections, every opponent of the cuts has the opportunity to vote for these measures by voting Scottish Socialist Party.

Every vote cast is another voice of reason in revolt against the most obscene attacks on living standards in generations.

Claim the future

As two of the SSP’s banners on the TUC demo declared, No cuts – tax the rich, and Defy all cuts – unite, strike, occupy. The time is ripe for united strike action, occupations and an ideological struggle for a socialist alternative to the cuts. The SSP will play its full part in campaigning for the unions and community organisations to take up these twin weapons in a war to survive that could shape the kind of society the next generation inherits.

Posted in Campaign, Cuts | No Comments »

Unite with other unions against the cuts

Posted by alangdundee on 10th June 2010

Main parts of our leaflet for EIS conference at the Caird Hall in Dundee.

The election of the Tories – the Twin Tories, with the treacherous Lib Dems joining forces with the Tory Butchers – marks a new threat to education workers, education services and communities. We all face a level of carnage to jobs, conditions and services not experienced since Thatcher at her most rampant.

Cameron and Clegg have lost no time in pronouncing their top priority is to cut public spending.

These upper class butchers want to wield the axe to jobs, pay, pensions, benefits, public services – to enrich their own class even further.

Cameron’s claims that we all face pain for years to come is false to the core.

The bankers who enjoyed a bountiful handout from public funds don’t face ‘pain’ – for instance, 100 of them at the RBS recently awarded themselves a £1m bonus each!

The richest 1,000 fat-cats whose incomes rocketed by 30% last year, to £353billion! – do not face ‘hard choices’ or ‘painful decisions’.

It’s Scotland’s 630,000 public sector workers, alongside workers in the private sector, our families, our communities, who face a massacre – unless a united, determined, militant campaign of resistance is built, starting now!

In resisting the cuts, EIS and other unions need two central guiding principles: unity in action is our best defence – and a convincing set of policies to explode the myth that cuts are unavoidable.

Teachers, civil servants, council and NHS workers have marched and taken strike action against cuts.

It would be fatal if these fights were kept separate and apart, or if any union adopted the notion that cuts are inevitable – but ‘not in our service’. That would weaken the resistance and guarantee cuts to all services.

So SSP members in the EIS (and in all other unions) strongly advocate united action – across all public sector unions and alongside community groups, anti-cuts campaigns, Save Our Schools campaigns…

EIS and other unions should build a united public rally on Saturday 26th June, after new levels of carnage are announced in the 22nd June Butchers’ Budget – as a springboard for building a mass march in the autumn, when even more cuts will be announced in the government’s Spending Review.

Such events would help build the fighting morale of tens of thousands who right now are terrified of what the future holds.

Equally important in building a rebellion against cuts from a government that has no mandate in Scotland – with 85% voting against the Tories – is a convincing set of policies that exposes the lie that cuts are necessary and unavoidable – a monstrous lie peddled not only by the Tories and Lib Dems, but also New Labour and the SNP! Otherwise many people will fall for the argument that there’s not enough money to defend jobs and services, that cuts are a necessary evil – and then fall out amongst themselves over where the cuts should occur.

That divide-and-conquer trickery lies behind the Tory plan to consult people over what to cut! There is no need for any cuts! There are oceans of wealth swilling around – but in the hands of the bankers. billionaires and boardrooms of oil companies – not in the hands of the public.

The SSP fights for alternatives that would create jobs, improve services, protect conditions. Commit EIS to action against the cuts – alongside other unions – and argue for socialist policies that would fund the expansion of jobs and services. And join the SSP – for an independent socialist Scotland.

Twenty’s Plenty in a class

The Scottish Socialist Party has an unrivalled track record of standing up for kids, communities and education. We have consistently fought school closures that lead to larger classes, job losses, increased stress for staff, worse education.

We have led several Save Our Schools campaigns, uniting parents, communities and trade unionists – demanding smaller classes and investment in community-based schools within easy, safe reach of children’s homes.

We led the mass opposition to Labour’s school closures in Glasgow last year. During that campaign we popularised the slogan Twenty’s Plenty in any class, and lobbied the SNP government to pass legislation to limit classes to 20 for all age groups.

At the recent STUC Congress, SSP members pushed this policy and won the backing of the conference for a campaign for classes of 20 maximum for all.

In East Dunbartonshire, when the Labour-Tory Coalition announced closure of 8 primaries last week,the SSP called a protest demo and public meeting to set up a Save Our Schools campaign.

150 local people joined the demo, the councillors took fright, and shelved their butchery – for now!

EIS shares the SSP’s policy of 20 max in a class. The time is rotten-ripe for the EIS leadership to lead action in support of this policy – including industrial action.

Posted in Dundee, Education, Free School Meals, Leaflet, Public Services, Richie Venton, Save Our Schools, Schools, Trade Unions | No Comments »

Build a mass, united Public Sector Demo on 10th April

Posted by alangdundee on 9th March 2010

Make the rich pay – bail out all public services, not bankers’ and billionaires’ profits

By Richie Venton – SSP national workplace organiser

Two major trade union events in the space of 48 hours demonstrate the seething anger at public sector cuts, the potential for a united resistance across the trade unions, and the potency, increasing popularity and urgent necessity of the Scottish Socialist Party’s alternatives to this assault on jobs, services and conditions.

EIS 10,000 march

On Saturday 6th March, 10,000 teachers, lecturers, nursery staff, parents, pupils and other trade unionists poured out of Glasgow ’s Kelvingrove Park , snaking their way round a mammoth route to the EIS union’s rally in the SECC.

This was the first national demo called by the EIS in decades. The overwhelming majority of the marchers had never been on a demo before. The age profile was a whole cross-section, from toddlers in buggies and primary kids, through trainee and newly qualified teachers, to bearded veterans of the profession – united in their fury at education budget cuts, whilst bankers’ bailouts, renewal of Trident weapons and bloody war cost the public a fortune.

Anger at that obscene contrast was reflected in speeches by the EIS president and others at the rally. They denounced the governments of Westminster and Holyrood for regarding these expenditures as more important than the education of our children, who represent the future, and lambasted the SNP government for now confronting children with the choice of either free school meals or smaller classes, when they had promised both and children deserve both.

SSP on the march

The EIS march is part of a campaign they have entitled “Why must our children pay?”

The SSP was the only party with a leaflet that directly dealt with the issues of the march, demanding “make the rich pay – not our kids; bail out education and all services – not bankers’ profits; 20’s plenty in any class – give our kids a chance.”

People snapped up the leaflets, smiled and murmured their agreement with the headlines, turned and quoted it to their friends as they assembled to march off.

The lively SSP contingent was joined by parents and children who fought the heroic Save Our Schools Campaign in Glasgow last year. As we marched we led the chant “Twenty’s plenty in any class – give our kids a chance”, which caught on with the crowd marching and bystanders on the pavements.

As the 10,000 trod towards the end of their marathon march to the SECC rally, we improvised an SSP “street meeting” on the pavement as they passed us! We belted out our message on a very loud PA system: “The SSP demands that the government tax the rich, to bail out education, not bankers’ profits and bankers’ bonuses.” Several sections of the march shouted back their agreement with us as they marched past, and even more contingents applauded us as they marched past. A sign of how profoundly the bankers’ bailout has changed people’s consciousness, including their open-ness to the SSP’s unashamed socialist demands.

The EIS leadership promised in speeches that this mass demo is just the start of the campaign, which is to be welcomed, and which EIS union activists and members will make sure is the case.

It is absolutely right that as the union representing 60,000 members in education they should take up the cudgels in defence of that service. But what would be tragic, and totally divisive and counter-productive, is if the EIS leadership argued for cuts in other services to save education; unity of opposition to all service cuts, combining the power and scale of members of all public sector unions and the communities they service is what is urgently needed to stop the slaughter.

Biggest civil service strike since 1987

It was therefore encouraging that an EIS representative (as well as speakers from the FBU, UNISON and STUC) addressed the 8th March strike rally in Glasgow, called during the 48-hour stoppage by all civil service workers, members of PCS.

This was the biggest civil service strike since 1987. Across the UK, over 250,000 workers brought services to a halt in tax and customs offices; Job Centres; driving centres; the Courts; the MoD; passport offices; the Scottish parliament (for the first time ever); Westminster … to name but some. 30,000 of these strikers were in Scotland .

They are overwhelmingly low-paid workers, whose partial compensation for low pay has been a modest average pension of £6,500 and a reasonable redundancy scheme – which is now under assault. The government has set in motion the legislation to slash the Civil Service Compensation Scheme, cutting the package that most workers would get on being made redundant by up to one-third, tens of thousands of pounds each. A sure sign that the Labour government (backed up quite openly by the Tories on this) want to slaughter tens of thousands of jobs on the cheap – in addition to the 100,000 already shed in the past 5 years – and usher in privatisation by making the prospect more attractive to the privateers.

The response to the 48-hour strike was absolutely overwhelming – forcing management to stoop to tricks like jetting in a handful of scab managers from Newcastle to open the Glasgow DVLA office.

Socialism in the civil service

Again, not only did SSP members in PCS play an instrumental part in building the strike, but our policies were more widely and eagerly embraced than for a long time: on the picket lines, at the PCS strike rallies in Glasgow and Dundee, and at the SSP public meeting in Glasgow after the union rally. This was a really large meeting, with over half those present attending their first ever SSP meeting. And strikers were enthusiastic in their support for our socialist aims – many commenting wryly that if only we could get a fair hearing in the media, imagine how popular our case would be – as well as our proposals on how to build public sector unity against all cuts in the immediate future.

Unity against the carnage – build 10th April Demo

Alongside a rolling programme of further industrial action by the PCS, railway workers are striking (Scotrail) and balloting for pre-General Election strikes (Network Rail). Numerous anti-cuts campaigns, involving council workers’ unions and communities, are campaigning against the brutal council cuts that loom. Already 5,000 council jobs face the chop, with hair-raising predictions of 32,000 jobs (one in every eight!) being butchered by 2014. And community centres face closure up and down Scotland .

So an immediate opportunity to tie all these strands of struggle into a rope to restrain the axe-wielders presents itself on Saturday 10th April. Scottish UNISON is calling a mass, national demonstration in Glasgow that day, in defence of public services.

SSP members in all the various trade unions – alongside other union members – need to move heaven and earth to make this an almighty display of the power of a united working class on the march, by calling on their unions to mobilise members into an event that dwarfs even the brilliant 10,000 on the EIS march.

As Labour, Tory, Lib Dem and SNP politicians sharpen their knives in a grisly pre-election competition for whose cuts are the deepest, the SSP in contrast will stand up for public sector workers and the communities that depend on public services.

We will build for a united march for public services – not private profit, demanding the governments tax the rich and bail out all public services – not bankers’ and billionaires’ profits.

We will campaign inside the unions for measures that would fund these services, protect and create jobs, and begin to re-distribute wealth from the millionaires to the millions.

Measures such as a 10% tax on every millionaire (to fund 80,000 new jobs in Scotland alone, on £25,000 a year for 3 years!); restoration of income tax on the rich to pre-Thatcher levels (83%) and likewise Corporation Tax on big companies, from the current paltry 28% to the 52% it was at before Thatcher and then New Labour made this country a tax haven for the tax-dodging rich.

A sea-change has begun in the outlook of workers in the frontline of public sector carnage by the parties that back big business and the profit system. Socialist measures – including full-blown public ownership of the entire banking sector, natural wealth, services and big industries, but with democratic control – are increasingly convincing to people whose future is under threat.

The time is ripe for the potential power of a united trade union movement to be mobilised – starting with 10th April – and for socialist demands to be boldly advanced amongst an increasingly receptive crowd of angry workers. The SSP will do its part, emboldened by the events of the past 48 hours.

Posted in Campaign, Demo, Education | No Comments »

Twenty’s Plenty in any class!

Posted by alangdundee on 2nd October 2009

by Richie Venton – Glasgow Save Our Schools Campaign organiser

Several developments on the provision of schools and education in recent weeks have exposed the rotten stench of New Labour’s hypocrisy, the backsliding of the SNP in the face of the recession, and the truth of the predictions and policies of the Glasgow Save Our Schools Campaign, consistently championed during our mass struggle against school closures since January.

At the heart of the matter is the key issue of class sizes.

In ferociously fighting 25 primary and nursery closures by the Labour-run Glasgow City Council, we countered their excuses about falling school rolls dictating closures by demanding cuts to classes of 20 maximum, for all age groups – as a means of protecting and creating teachers’ jobs, improving the attention given to individual children and therefore the quality of their education.

We coined the slogan Twenty’s Plenty in any class, popularising the policy of the teachers’ union, EIS, and the Scottish Socialist Party.

We welcomed the pledge of the incoming SNP government to reduce classes to 18 in Primary1-3, as a radical step in the right direction. In the SOS Campaign’s official meeting with SNP Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop in June, I argued the case that her government’s reliance on the ‘Concordat’ between Holyrood and local authorities – whereby they appealed to councils to retain teaching staff levels whilst school rolls fell as a means of implementing P1-3 classes of 18 – was being ripped to shreds, incapable of achieving its own goals, and that surely the government should pass legislation to enforce smaller classes. That point was repeated in writing to her. No reply was forthcoming, oral or written.

Campaigning works!

However, the pressure of our campaign has played some part in two important recent steps in the parliament. The Public Petitions Committee recently agreed to seek the written responses of the government and several councils to the issues raised in our petition to the parliament, in which we demanded a public inquiry into the effect of school closures on class sizes, educational standards, jobs and other social impacts.

And now, under the pressure of parents and campaigners in revolt against school closures, plus legal cases enforcing larger class sizes in popular schools through placement requests, Fiona Hyslop has announced plans to legislate to enforce maximum classes of 25 in P1.

New Labour has unleashed the dogs of war against Hyslop, barking out accusations of betrayal, of desertion of the pledge of 18 maximum for a cap of 25.

Labour gives hypocrisy a bad name

Such accusations from New Labour stink to the high heavens. They give hypocrisy a bad name! This is the same New Labour who openly, publicly denounced smaller class sizes as unworkable in Glasgow – and whose Labour Lord Provost accused me of a middle class agenda(!?) for promoting classes of 20 maximum at public consultation meetings, telling me with a perfectly straight face that smaller classes don’t work for working class kids!

It’s the same New Labour whose Glasgow city council arrogantly dismissed our repeated arguments that the school population was set to rise again, with a 4 per cent growth in live births in recent years, and our dire warnings that their closures would lead to bigger classes and worse education – as well as job losses.
Well who was right and who was wrong? Average classes of 21 in the schools closed have leapt up to classes of 25 and more in the schools the kids have been shunted into this term. Only one in seven qualified teachers have got a full-time teaching job. Over 200 Glasgow teachers only heard which school they were working in the day before term started! And in an incredible, but shameless admission last week, Glasgow city council leaders conceded that actually there are more children in Glasgow than we had been expecting. In an ominous threat of further cuts and closures, they whined that this meant £2m less in savings through closures than projected.

So criticism of the SNP government from New Labour holds absolutely no water; and Labour pointedly says not a word about what they would do about cutting class sizes!

SNP backsliders

However, severe criticism of the SNP is richly deserved. They are backsliding on their election promises, whilst trying to disguise their cowardly retreat with headlines, smoke and mirrors. Alongside this miserably small step on reducing class sizes, they are slashing the intake to teacher training, as a perverse solution to the lack of permanent jobs for newly qualified teachers.

Of course any parent or teacher will welcome the legal limitation of P1 classes to 25 next year, in place of the current legal limit of 30, introduced in 1999. Of course if that was extended to P2 and P3 in later years it would be a painfully slow, gradual step in the right direction. And those of us who have fought a high profile battle for smaller class sizes, demanding legal measures to enforce them, as opposed to relying on the (non-existent) goodwill of councils, can celebrate making some impact on government policies.

But a ceiling of 25 for P1 is pathetic compared to the SNP manifesto pledges, and would only have a paltry impact in real life. Just 6 per cent of kids in Scotland in P1 are in classes above 25! So for 94 per cent of them, this has no effect – apart from the welcome protection against future increases as Labour, Lib Dem, Tory and SNP councils pass on cuts.

Twenty’s Plenty

And why restrict it to the first year of school? At present, P4-7 and the first two years of secondary school are only restricted to a maximum of 33, with a limit of 30 for the final four years at secondary.

And as any teacher at primary or secondary schools will testify, even a cap of 25 would still present them with the task of crowd control in many classes, rather than being able to devote time to the individual needs of kids’ learning.

The demand for no more than 20 in any class, right throughout school years, is justified, proven to be right by numerous academic studies, would transform kids’ learning experience and secure jobs for new generations of teachers, reducing the stress of the job in the process.

The Scottish Socialist Party will persist with this demand, alongside other parents and teachers, whereas the mainstream parties put cash before kids, whether in periods of recession and/or rampant profiteering for the few.

Posted in Education, Public Services, Save Our Schools, Schools | No Comments »


Promoted by Kevin McVey on behalf of the Scottish Socialist Party, Suite 370, 4th Floor Central Chambers 93 Hope St, Glasgow G2 6LD.