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TEACHERS ON STRIKE.

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TEACHERS ON STRIKE. Many Schools In Herefordshire Closed. The Fight Begins. The Union's Claim for a Scale. The strike of the Herefordshire school teachers began on Monday, and whatever may bp the ultimate outcome of the dispute, the earliest tactical success will rest with the strikers. In all these disputes between employers and employed a third party goes to the wall. Generally it is the community that suffers most. In this deplorable dispute between the school teachers and the County Education Committee the first and most serious loss will be that of the children. The strikers themselves have out of work benefits guaranteed them to the extent of their salaries if the dispute goes on for five years. If they have to accept positions of a value below the best the Herefordshire authority would give them, they draw on their union for the balance. No doubt, too. the members of the County Education Committee are having a very anxious time. They may possibly lose something in the way of grants, and hard cash must be going into their very spirited efforts to fill the vacant posts. But to neither side does the strike bring the damage which must accrue to the thousands of children for whom there is no school bell in the morning. Over nearly half the county the work of the elementary schools will be held up while the disputants compose their differences. The notices of the head teachers went in two months before Christmas, and it does not need much imagination to realise that there would be two months of unsettlement in which the beat school work would not be done. Then came the Christmas holidays, and work has hardly been resumed when again it is arrested and the children have their first lesson in the strike method, their pedagogue the object on which it is based. An edifying spectacle truly! In our industrial dssputes in which the con- sequences are certainly not more vital, there is always the arbitrator, the peacemaker, waiting in the background to be called up. The fact that anything more serious than extra halfpence on the rates, another five pounds a year for the teacher hangs upon the issue, does not seem to have occurred to anybody so far. The interests of the children, of course, demand an adequately remunerated instructor, but in our highly- organised educational system one would have thought there must be some agency to attain that end without the violent fracture of school work which certainly occurred on Monday. THE STRIKERS' SUCCESS. For there is no doubt about the initial success of the strike. Teachers in more than eighty schools will not take up their work in the morning, and the enterprise of the county authorities has failed abjectly to secure an adequate staff to fill their places. Possibly In from a dozen to twenty of these schools teachers may be found to carry on the work. The precise number it is a little difficult to say. The National Union of Teacbers has distinctive and very effective methods of picketing," and the county authorities prefer to keep their very few finds" in the way of teachers secret until the morning of the school opening. The 1902 Act gave the school managers the right of selection, but in the present circum- stances the Education Committee have felt theinfielves justified in taking matters into their own hands, and have made the appoint- ments in Council schools without consulting the local managers. Managers have been informed that Mr So and So has been appointed to a school, and, to guard against, indiscretion, are kept in ignorance as to whence he ounp*. Apparently there have I been some disclosures. The appointments bave become known to the NLitiona, l,nion of TeacLcrs, with the result that in a con- J stderable number of cases such pressure has been brought to bear that the teachers concerned have cancelled their engagements. In several cases assistant teachers in the county have been offered headships carrying increases of f,40 and £ 50 per year. One or two accepted so tempting an offer, but have since withdrawn their acceptances. Such a one is Mr Phillips, offered the head master- ship at Walford with an immediate incre- ment of £ 40. Another assistant was offered an advance of C50 to take up a similar position, but he refused it. A Birmingham teacher, Mr R W Parry, appointed to the headmastership of a Bromyard school, has since intimated that he will not take up the work. Scotland the Education Committee found a more favourable recruiting ground than England and Wales, but several of those who had accepted positions in ignor- ance of the circumstances have notified their refusal to fulfil the engagement. In these circumstances it is impossible to appraise the number or the class of teachers whom so far the committee have been able to secure. I have good reason, however, for saying that the number is not more than twenty. The class of teacher, Mr Wiltshire, the County Education secretary, informed me, is excellent-a roseate estimate which cannot be applied to strike-breakers in other walks of life. Mr Nicholls, who is at the head of the National Union organisation here, tells me that not a single member of his body has accepted a position under the county since the dispute commenced, though a certain number have refused to tender their resignations in respect of appointments they now hold. It must be borne in mind, too, that the position becomes aggressively worse unless the county authorities can immediately secure the services of a large body of teachers. The notices of masters and mis- tresses at about half the schools of the district expired on Monday. Many more take effect at various dates up to and including March 31. I NO INDICATIONS OF A SETTLEMENT. I Unfortuately there are at present no indi- cations which encourage one to hope for an early settlement. A deadlock has been reached, and between the two bodies no basis exists on which a compromise can be affected. A week ago, by the good offices of the Bishop of Hereford, the two parties were brought together, but after a discussion lasting for about an hour the negotiations broke down on the question of a scale of teachers' salaries. From the report of the proceedings it appears that the teachers' representatives were prepared to go a long way in the concession of details if the Ed uca- tion Committee would agree to the establish- ment of a scale, while Sir James Rankin and Colonel Decie, spokesmen for the county authority, would not treat unless the scale was foregone. And unless some outside authority can exert pressure the deadlock will continue. The firmnes8 of the attitude taken up by the county committee is a little surprising to outsiders. So far nothing they have done, not even the concession of increases totalling Ll,330 a month ago, has shaken the solidarity of the National Union's forces. A large number of the schools are closed without any prospect of their being reopened at an early date unless either dissension comes into the ranks of the teachers or the County Committee concede the principle of of a scale and negotiate the details with the union. It, is inconceivable that an authoirty which succeeds in securing at most a score of teachers after two months' hectic search can till a hundred or more places in a week or two. The Committee, I understand, have high hopes that the bulk of the teachers now on strike will withiu a few days repudiate the union and resume their service. It is exceed- ingly difficult to find any evidence to support that view. Eighteen teachers out of some- thing like 300 have, I understand, with- drawn their notices, and it is to be presumed I will continue their duties, but recent meetings of the teachers have shown them to be as firm in their determination to continue the struggle as w hen the notices were served. They risk very much less than dues the industrial worker on strike. They have at their backs one of the most powerful unions in the country. It has a huge sustentation fund on which it is, with the full approval of its members, prepared to draw indefinitely to carry this Herefordshire campaign to a successful termination. Each of the members on strike is guaranteed full wages for five years. Beyond this there is an indemnity against any member being the loser should he or she have to accept a position at a lower remuneration in consequence of the dispute. THE UNCERTIFICATED TEACHERS. Uncertificated teachers are not eligible to be members of the union, but for the success of the strike it was thought desirable that they, too, should come out. and the union have guaranteed them three months' salary, their cases to be reconsidered at the end of that period if the strike continues. Fifty. of these teachers have consequently sent in their notices. The National Union profess to have made generous allowance for a protracted strike, and declare that even then their sustentation fund will still have a credit of £ 30,000. In these circumstances the position of the strikers seems very strong indeed, stronger indeed than that of a county committee with small prospect before it of staffing its schools. If force is to prevail, and the battle is to be fought out between the two antagonists, I think public opinion is right in assuming that the teachers will win. That is not to siy that public opinion believes the teachers to be in the right. Public opinion is a little difficult to estimate over a whole county, and while the teachers have a wide and personal sympathy in the villages, the committee's regard for the interests of the ratepayers receives a con- siderable endorsement from the agricultural community in the country districts and the middle classes in the towns. Herefordshire ratepayers will not cheerfully yield up their distinction of having the lowest education rate in the country. The Education Com- mittee are not receiving a great deal of help from the local managers of the schools. In a large number of cases the managers have refused to consider the question of the appointment of successors to the strikers, believing it to be in the best interests of the schools that the differences between the teachers and the committee should be composed and the masters and mistresses be reinstated. There has been some resentment, too, against the Education Committee's selection of masters over the heads of the local managers. In several villages demon- strations in favour of the strikers have been made, and resolutions of sympathy and support passed. The committee have shown that in their own way they are prepared to increase their teachers' salaries, and I gather from recent utterances of leading members will go further in that direction in the future. But —and the but connotes the cause of the strike—each case must be considered on its merits. The teacher must prove that he has earned the increment. The committee will have nothing to do with the scale system which implies the teachers' right to a periodical increase within limits unless be is proved by the committee or its agents to have been incompetent or guilty of unworthy conduct. And the opposition to this scale system which works smoothly with so many other authorities comes mainly from the fact that Herefordshire is a county of many small schools and a few medium-sized or larger ones. Naturally enough, the committee are not prepared to give the same salary to the head master of a school of 25 or 30 children in a remote village as they would consider fair to the teacher controlling a school of two or three fully-equipped departments in a toww like Leominster. A GRADED SCALE. I The National Union met the objection with an offer to grade the schools. They suggested ( the following scale:— I HEAD TEACHERS. Men. Women. Number on Roll. Min. Max. Min. Max. E. X. jE. je. 80 and under 120 160 100 140 81 to 120. 140 180 120 160 121 and over 160 220 140 180 Annual Increment, £ 5. CLASS TEACHERS. Men jC90 to 9150 Woman 980 to JE130. Annual Increment, JE5. The scale sacrifices to some some extent the minima which the union have set up as sort of national programme," but even then it was not put forward as an ultimatum. It was to be merely a basis of negotiation. The County Committee would have none of it, and the first proposal which gave promis- ing ground for discussion was summarily rejected. As it stands the committee are, no doubt, rightly interpreting the wishes of their constituents in rejecting the terms of this proposal. According to a calculation Mr Wiltshire has made, the adoption of this scale would have increased the salaries list at the end of eight years by over LIO,000, equal to the fourpenny rate, and a largely increased contribution would have become immediately operative, since the proposals were to be retrospective to some extent. Statements made by the union's representa- tives, however, show that this scale is not the irreducible minimum which would be acceptable to the teachers. It is hardly likely that, even if the scale system were conceded, the committee would prepare to include all schools with from 25 to 80 children in average attendance in the one grade, and in fixing their minima the National Union authorities appear to have left a margin for inevitable con- cession. But as the first scheme which has afforded reasonable ground for negotiation between the parties it does seem worthy of a more careful consideration than the County Committee have so far given it. In a brief interview on Saturday, Mr Wiltshire estimated the number of schools which would be closed on Monday as about fifty. The teachers the committee bad engaged to take the places of strikers were of an excellent class. Eighteen head teachers under the committee had withdrawn their resignations, and he believed that the number would be swelled considerably during the next few days. The committee continued firm in their determination to resist the introduction of a scale, but they would treat fairly each individual case which came up before them. In a county of small schools like Herefordshire an inelastic scale was unworkable, and in resisting the extravagant demands of the National Union of Teachers as set forth in their scale the committee would have the ratepayers of the county behind them.—" Birmingham Daily 1 Post," February 2, 1914.

Views of Sir J. H. Yoxall.

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