Teach­ers are of­fered pay rise of 9%... but may still go on strike

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - News - By Gareth Rose

PAR­ENTS face months of mis­ery as mil­i­tant teach­ers pre­pare to plunge schools into chaos with ‘se­ri­ous and sus­tained’ strike ac­tion.

The EIS union has promised ‘es­ca­lat­ing’ ac­tion af­fect­ing schools in ev­ery part of the coun­try, with gen­eral sec­re­tary Larry Flana­gan warn­ing schools could be closed for three days a week un­less the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment buck­les to its pay de­mands.

Yes­ter­day, the EIS coun­cil agreed to call a for­mal bal­lot of mem­bers, with pa­pers to be is­sued near the end of this month. The Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment has un­til then to reach a deal, said Mr Flana­gan.

But yes­ter­day it emerged that Ed­u­ca­tion Sec­re­tary John Swin­ney has re­turned with an im­proved of­fer of a min­i­mum 9 per cent in­crease on Jan­uary 2018 pay lev­els, with a fur­ther rise of 3 per cent due in April next year.

Coun­cil lead­ers will not for­malise Mr Swin­ney’s of­fer un­til af­ter meet­ing on Jan­uary 25, leav­ing only days to agree a deal with unions be­fore strike bal­lot pa­pers are is­sued.

The of­fer is the kind of in­crease most work­ers can only dream of – but still falls short of the teach­ers’ de­mands for a 10 per cent rise in a sin­gle year. Ac­cord­ing to the EIS, a pro­ba­tion­ary teacher at present has a start­ing salary of £22,866, ris­ing to £36,480, while head­teach­ers can earn up to £88,056.

Speak­ing on the BBC’s Good Morn­ing Scot­land pro­gramme yes­ter­day, Mr Flana­gan warned the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment against un­der­es­ti­mat­ing the scale of dis­rup­tion teach­ers were will­ing to cause.

He said: ‘It cer­tainly won’t be to­kenis­tic, it won’t be a sin­gle day to let off steam.

‘If we get to the point where we are tak­ing strike ac­tion, the in­ten­tion will be to bring Gov­ern­ment and Cosla [Con­ven­tion of Scot­tish Lo­cal Author­i­ties] to the ta­ble, and that won’t hap­pen through a light touch ap­proach.

‘It will be a pro­gramme of rolling ac­tion, which will com­mence with a na­tional strike.

‘We’re look­ing at op­tions around sec­toral dis­putes – tak­ing pri­mary out one day, tak­ing sec­ondary out an­other – weeks when there are two days, weeks when there are three days. It would be a se­ri­ous, sus­tained cam­paign of es­ca­lat­ing strike ac­tion.’

De­spite most par­ents re­ceiv­ing far smaller pay in­creases, Mr Flana­gan said: ‘I think the pub­lic will sup­port us.

‘We have had great sup­port so far in terms of set­ting out our claim.

‘Ul­ti­mately, we want to be do­ing a good job in schools for our pupils and their fam­i­lies, but to do that we need to have the right num­ber of staff, and staff who are happy.’

The threat of strike ac­tion is yet more bad news for Nicola Stur­geon – who claimed ed­u­ca­tion

‘Se­ri­ous cam­paign of es­ca­lat­ing strikes’

would be her ‘top pri­or­ity’ – and Mr Swin­ney, who has been forced to shelve his sup­pos­edly flag­ship Ed­u­ca­tion Bill due to lack of sup­port.

Yes­ter­day, Scot­tish Con­ser­va­tive ed­u­ca­tion spokes­woman Liz Smith urged him to re­solve the teacher pay dis­pute, say­ing: ‘It’s clear that both sides in this ne­go­ti­a­tion need to work to­gether in or­der to avoid strike ac­tion.

‘Both the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment and the EIS need to com­pro­mise if we are to see teach­ers get a fair deal.’

Scot­tish Labour ed­u­ca­tion spokesman Iain Gray said: ‘The SNP is ut­terly fail­ing teach­ers, par­ents and pupils by not treat­ing de­mands for fair pay se­ri­ously. No one wants to see in­dus­trial ac­tion – John Swin­ney needs to come back with a fair deal for teach­ers.’

Mr Swin­ney said he was hope­ful his lat­est of­fer would se­cure a break­through, adding: ‘This is a clear in­di­ca­tion of our com­mit­ment to re­cruit and re­tain teach­ers and I urge the teach­ing unions to con­sider this favourably.

‘It is an en­hanced of­fer and I will ask Cosla to agree this and to for­mally of­fer it to unions af­ter Jan­uary 25.’

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