Scottish Government not trying to find money to settle teacher dispute – union

Scotland’s biggest teaching union has claimed the Scottish Government and councils “have little or no interest” in finding the funding required to end a pay dispute.

Teachers are in the midst of strike action, with a wave of walkouts currently underway and more on the way.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has previously said there is a “gap” between what is being asked for and what is affordable.

Following a meeting with the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers (SNCT) – the body tasked with coming up with teacher pay deals made up of the Scottish Government, Cosla and teaching unions – Des Morris, the salaries convener at the EIS, said: “It is becoming increasingly clear that both the Scottish Government and Cosla have little or no interest in finding the modest additional funding that could bring a new offer to the table to potentially end this pay dispute.

“Five months since their sub-inflationary 5% pay offer was overwhelmingly rejected by teachers, and more than two months since a rehashed version of the same offer was again rejected, the Scottish Government and Cosla brought absolutely nothing new to the table in last week’s meeting – just a  stubborn stance that Scotland’s teachers should accept 5% which represents yet another substantial real-terms pay cut that only further erodes the value of teachers’ pay.”

Mr Morris said the unions want to negotiate, but accused the Government of “a repeated and unreasonable insistence that all of the compromise must come from Scotland’s teachers”.

Following the talks on Friday, which ended without a deal being struck, Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said meeting had been “constructive”, something the union rejects.

“It is disingenuous and unacceptable for the Scottish Government and Cosla to continue to misrepresent negotiations as positive and constructive,” Mr Morris said.

“The cold, hard truth is that, despite all their public claims of working tirelessly and turning over every stone to reach agreement, their entrenched position and refusal to offer any compromise at all leaves teachers, children and young people, and their parents, facing the prospect of continuing and escalating strike action in Scotland’s schools.

“The ongoing and planned strike action is entirely avoidable. The Scottish Government and Cosla need to come forward with a genuinely improved offer that unions can put to our members.”

The EIS has said no further talks have been scheduled.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We remain in talks with unions and recent dialogue has explicitly been focused on the potential areas of compromise with a view to reaching an agreement which is acceptable to all sides and resolving this dispute. The current offer is the fourth that has been put to unions.

“The union demands for a 10% increase for all teachers – even the highest paid – is not affordable within the Scottish Government’s fixed budget and a more pragmatic approach is needed before we can reach a compromise.

“The Scottish Government values the hard work that our teaching workforce put in for our learners and we remain absolutely committed to ensuring they receive a fair pay deal.

“Strikes in our schools are in no one’s interest – including for pupils, parents and carers who have already had to deal with significant disruption over the past three years. I continue to urge teaching unions to reconsider current industrial action while talks are ongoing.

“We hope that these discussions will continue to progress towards a compromise to ensure a sustainable deal for all involved.”

Katie Hagmann, Cosla Spokesperson for Resources, said they remained in discussions with the unions.

“Strikes in education are in nobody’s interest and all parties are eager to seek a resolution that not only protects the teaching and wider local government workforce, but also our children and young people’s educational experience,” she said.

“Cosla leaders are clear that given the financial pressures being faced, it remains the case that the 10% ask of the trade unions remains unaffordable and therefore we still remain a distance apart in terms of a settlement.

“Given the local government settlement for 23/24, what teachers are asking for, over and above the current offer, is simply not sustainable on a recurring basis.

“Already, councils are considering a range of options to balance the books next year and options will inevitably include a reduction in jobs across all service areas, including schools.”