Teaching union warns of more strike action after pay talks fail

A teaching union has warned of further strike action unless the Scottish Government puts forward a suitable pay offer.

The Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association (SSTA) said it has “no option” but to consider more walkouts and other measures after pay talks between the Government, local government body Cosla and teaching unions on Thursday failed to resolve the issue.

The union’s leadership will meet to discuss new dates next week.

The SSTA and other teaching unions, including the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) and NASUWT, claim “no new offer” has been made.

On Thursday evening, the EIS confirmed it will go ahead with 16 days of consecutive strike action which is set to begin on Monday. It will see teachers at two local authorities walk out each day until February 6, involving all Scottish councils.

A meeting of the Scottish Negotiating Council for Teachers’ extended joint chairs took place on Thursday to discuss a possible solution to the 2022-23 pay row.

That came after teachers across Scotland walked out in the ongoing dispute on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Prior to that, SSTA and NASUWT members took two days of action in December and EIS members walked out on November 24.

Unions have rejected a pay offer which would see most teachers receive a 5% wage rise, although the lowest earners would get an increase of 6.85%.

Scottish Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville has insisted the 10% teachers are demanding is unaffordable.

Seamus Searson, SSTA general secretary, said: “The Scottish Government and Cosla have again failed to put an improved pay offer on the table and have blocked the path towards further negotiations.

“Despite a range of meetings in the last week with the Cabinet Secretary plus two ‘negotiating’ meetings of the extended joint chairs, no new offer has been made.

“This meeting was another wasted opportunity to bring the dispute to an end and prevent further strike action. The approach to negotiation with the trade unions is causing more disruption to pupils’ learning and giving unnecessary worry to parents.

“It is time the Scottish Government and Cosla took responsibility for the position and tried to resolve this pay dispute.”

Catherine Nicol, SSTA president, said: “The SSTA are insisting that only a suitable pay offer that will encourage teachers to remain in the profession will be acceptable.

“This would attract the highest quality graduates and ensure we sustain the high-quality education system we have in Scotland – a system that is respected across Europe.

“However, the current lack of negotiations shows a level of disrespect to the profession.

Striking teachers
Members of the EIS took their demand for better pay to the door of the First Minister’s residence Bute House during strike action this week (PA)

“The SSTA executive has no option but to look at taking strike action and other measures to get the message across. We are not just fighting for a fair salary increase, but for the future of education in Scotland.”

The EIS executive meet on Friday to discuss the next course of action in its “Pay Attention” campaign.

The NASUWT said it is awaiting an improved pay offer from Cosla and the Scottish Government but if this is not forthcoming, further action will be considered.

Ms Somerville said on Thursday: “While talks are ongoing, the Scottish Government continues to urge the teaching unions to reconsider their plans for industrial action.”

Cosla said after Thursday’s meeting that it “remains a distance apart in terms of a settlement” with the unions.