Last Saturday, thousands of teachers and supporters of education from across the country assembled in George Square for a rally in support of a 10% increase in teacher pay and an overall improvement of conditions for teachers in Scotland.
Protestors marched from Kelvingrove Park down Argyle Street through the city centre, where they rallied in the square with signs and balloons bearing slogans of support for a 10% pay raise in opposition to the 3% raise offered by the Scottish government. The rally was organized by the Educational Institute of Scotland, or EIS, the largest teaching union in Scotland. Marchers included teachers and educational support staff from schools across Scotland as far as the Western Isles, as well as their students and other supporters of the pay increase. The EIS estimates that 30,000 teachers took part in the march, which began in the late morning and did not fully reach the square until mid-afternoon.
BBC Scotland reported in September that the government’s proposal had met with disdain from EIS, which voted in June to escalate to “strike-readiness”. EIS has now prepared a ballot on industrial action, upon which they have urged teachers to vote “yes”. The BBC noted that the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla), has urged the unions to accept the 3% deal, arguing that there will be job losses if teacher pay is increased any further.
Many signs at the rally denounced Education Secretary John Swinney. According to The Herald, leaked correspondence reveals that Swinney and Cosla planned to write to union members urging them to accept the current pay offer of 3%, a move that Scottish Trade Union Council president Lynn Henderson denounced at the rally as “Tory union-busting practices…like what we’ve been seeing in Trump’s USA.”
University of Glasgow rector Aamer Anwar was one of many speakers at the event. In his fiery speech, Anwar urged the Scottish government to increase funding for education. “If [the government] values education, it has to value teachers”, said Anwar. “You cannot have a first-class education system with second-class pay and conditions.”
Anwar also noted that the University of Glasgow has been experiencing a dearth of new teachers. “When our students choose teaching as a career, they don’t do it for the money,” said Anwar. “They do it because they care!” However, he noted, high levels of student debt combined with the low prospects for teachers in Scotland are driving away university students from the field of teaching. Anwar noted that the pay for teachers in real earnings has fallen by 20% in the last ten years.
Liam McCain, President of the National Union of Students, also spoke at the rally in favour of teachers. “You inspired us to broaden our minds, to broaden our horizons”, said McCain. “Just like me, hundreds of college and university students that I’ve met today would not be in higher education if not for you.”
Other speakers at the event included EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan, Scottish Green Party representative Ross Greer and Scottish Labour Party representative Richard Leonard. The event also featured a band who performed pro-union songs with acoustic guitars.