A Fife teachers strike is possible if agreement is not reached over school safety, a union has warned.
The local association of the EIS has declared a formal dispute with Fife Council and called for a meeting before the Christmas holiday.
It has accused the local authority of failing to exercise its duty of care to staff in relation to the risk posed by coronavirus.
This included, it said, refusing to shift to remote learning for the final days of term to reduce infection risk and allow teachers to see vulnerable relatives at Christmas.
Members were balloted on entering a formal dispute with the council and 90% of the 53% who voted supported the move.
Branch secretary Pauline Stewart warned that a further vote could be held on industrial action.
In a letter to head of education Shelagh McLean outlining the grounds for dispute, she said: “We look forward to meeting with you as soon as practicable to resolve these matters and we would appreciate discussions beginning prior to the Christmas break.
“We reserve the right to move to a statutory ballot on industrial action up to and including strike action in defence of our members’ interests should we become unsuccessful in negotiating a resolution to their concerns.”
We reserve the right to move to a statutory ballot on industrial action up to and including strike action in defence of our members’ interests should we become unsuccessful in negotiating a resolution to their concerns.”
Pauline Stewart, EIS Fife
Fife Council education and children’s services director Carrie Lindsay said officers would meet with union representatives to discuss their worries.
She said: “We are understandably disappointed that the EIS did not discuss their concerns with us before moving to a ballot.
“We pride ourselves in having positive working relationships with our trade unions and professional associations.
“It would always be our preference to seek to resolve matters through local discussion and unfortunately this dispute has not been approached in this manner.
“Now that we have been approached by the EIS for a meeting we will of course be happy to meet with them to discuss their concerns and work together for the benefit of all our employees.”
Now that we have been approached by the EIS for a meeting we will of course be happy to meet with them to discuss their concerns and work together for the benefit of all our employees.”
Carrie Lindsay, Fife Council
She also said that the local authority could not lawfully close schools as requested, and stressed that the health and wellbeing of the council’s workforce is extremely important.
She said: “Throughout the pandemic response, the duty of care we have to the health, safety, and wellbeing of all our employees has been at the forefront of the approach we have taken.
“The wellbeing of staff is central to decisions that we have made in Fife.
“As a local authority, we do not have the legal authority to close all schools or move all schools to remote learning in the current circumstances, according to our legal advice.
“If there is any change to national advice from either Scottish Government or Public Health Scotland, then, as always, we will take steps to make sure that we follow that guidance.”