Teachers' union warns of more strikes before Christmas

Teachers' union warns of more strikes before Christmas <i>(Image: PA)</i>
Teachers' union warns of more strikes before Christmas (Image: PA)

TEACHERS could strike again before Christmas, the head of the EIS has warned, as she attacked the “blundersome” last minute pay offer from the Scottish Government and COSLA.

Andrea Bradley, the general secretary of Scotland’s largest trade union, said she it was now "inevitable" that there would be more strike action in the new year, and she said she could not rule out further action before Christmas.

At the moment, all members of the EIS are due to strike tomorrow, and then primary teachers will walk out again on 10 January, and secondary staff on 11 January.

A second teachers’ union, the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association, has agreed two days of strike action on 7 December and 8 December.

Ms Bradley told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland: “Our Executive Committee has agreed the program of industrial action. So it's tomorrow, the 24th, the first day of that strike action, the first day of strike action by teachers in 40 years over pay.”

Asked if there could be more strike action over December, she said: “They have not agreed that as yet. I wouldn't take it off the table but they haven't agreed to it as yet.”

Ms Bradley said it was “inevitable” that more strike dates for January and February would be announced tomorrow.

The eleventh hour pay deal offered by the Scottish Government and COSLA late on Wednesday night would have meant a minimum increase for most teachers of £1,926 or 5%.

The  Scottish Government said it was "progressive" as it would have meant extra help for those on the lowest salaries, equivalent to 6.85%.

A fully qualified teacher in Scotland, they added, would receive £35,650 – over £7,500 more than their counterpart in England.

Speaking to the BBC, Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said she was “disappointed” that the EIS had rejected the offer.

The minister said the government had a fixed budget that is ”already committed.”

She warned that meeting the EIS’s demand of a 10% increase could mean “difficult decisions” in other areas of education spending.

“I would ask them to reflect very carefully on the context that we are in as a government with a fixed budget already committed, already having to make exceptionally difficult decisions about where that money will come from.

“We've had over a billion pounds worth of savings, that have had to be made to ensure that we can do the pay settlements that we have at the moment and the impact of inflation.

“Difficult decisions would have to be made elsewhere in the education budget. And I would simply ask unions to reflect on that difficult position.

“I appreciate the sense of feeling of some members, I absolutely respect the right to strike and to take this action.

"But the context that we are all living in and working in is important. And while we might like to do more, it's exceptionally difficult.”

Ms Bradley said that while the Scottish Government and COSLA had promised to look and see if they could take money from elsewhere in their budget all they had done was “take taken money from some teachers and give it others.”

She said her members rejected what was in effect a pay cut.

Ms Bradley said:"It is not in the best interests of children and young people to have teachers poorly paid.

"And this is in the context of CPI sitting at 11.1% RPI inflation sitting at 14%, which means that whichever way you look at this offer, it's basically a differentiated pay cut.

“And that impacts on the morale of teachers and impacts on recruitment and retention. And ultimately, that does not benefit children and young people.”

She said the government and COSLA were looking to “get a pay settlement agreed to the cheapest possible price.”