TEACHERS in three local authority areas – Glasgow, Fife and West Dunbartonshire – have voted "overwhelmingly" in favour of declaring a formal dispute over school safety.

They claim employers are failing to provide a safe working environment for staff in light of the continuing threat from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In West Dunbartonshire, 91% of teachers backed the move to a dispute, on a turnout of 75%. In Glasgow, 93% of teachers voted in favour, one a turnout of 63%. In Fife, 90% of teachers voted in favour, on a turnout of 53%.

Scotland's biggest teachers' union EIS says current coronavirus measures in schools across the country do not keep pupils or staff safe, and there should be more remote teaching in place before and after the Christmas break.

The union have proposed a shift to remote working for a few days around the festive period.

It said that local associations will be seeking an "urgent response" from the councils involved to member concerns.

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said, “These votes are clear evidence of the anxieties teachers feel with regard to school Covid security. The First Minister today has cited rising infection levels in parts of the country and hinted that some areas may have to move back to Level 4 - all the more likely if there is a post-Christmas spike in infection levels.”

“We have seen schools in Wales move to remote learning as part of the effort to drive down infection levels and yet in Scotland there isn’t a single additional mitigation put in place for schools even at Level 4. Teachers want to see schools open but not at all costs. Both the Scottish Government and local authorities should be transparent in setting out the benchmarks which would trigger a move to remote or blended learning.”

Two days ago EIS said that six of its branches were moving to ballot union members in disputes with their local authorities.

Another four branches were also considering whether to also take this step.

The Scottish Greens have given their support to teachers in all three local authority areas.
Scottish Greens education spokesperson Ross Greer, whose ‘Safe Schools’ proposals were agreed by Parliament last month but have not yet been delivered by the Scottish Government, has called for ministers to step in immediately to address the serious safety concerns raised by teachers across the country.

Ross Greer MSP, who represents West Dunbartonshire, said: “I am not surprised that teachers have voted this way and they have the Greens’ full support for having done so. As I told Parliament last month, extremely vulnerable teachers have been bullied back into classrooms against the advice of their GPs, many teachers are not even being told when one of their pupils has tested positive and, as predicted, social distancing has proven impossible in most schools.

“The Scottish Government have let down teachers and pupils at every turn during this pandemic, failing to offer them regular testing, dumping the mammoth burden of operating track and trace on schools themselves, without providing the extra staff they desperately need and delaying inevitable decisions on everything from face-masks to the 2021 exams.

"Parliament passed the Greens’ Safe Schools proposals a month ago to avoid precisely this kind of dispute, one which teachers have not started lightly but which they are entirely justified in. The Education Secretary needs to listen to teachers’ concerns and act, as Parliament has instructed him to do.”