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