Members of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) will walk out on Thursday in the first national strike over pay for almost 40 years, with the action by teachers expected to close the majority of schools across Scotland.
Education secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville has warned the Scottish Government’s budget is under “extreme pressure” and a 10 per cent rise is “unaffordable”.
A last-ditch offer made on Tuesday in a bid to avert strike action would see the lowest paid staff receive a 6.85 per cent increase, with most getting a 5per cent rise.
But that was rejected by the EIS, and its general secretary Andrea Bradley branded it an “inept rehash” of the offer made to teachers earlier this year.
She said while the offer would see some lower paid teachers receive 6.85 per cent, that will only involve 8.4 per cent of staff.
Almost three-quarters (74 per cent) would receive a 5 per cent rise, but Ms Bradley said “more than half” of head teachers and deputy head teachers would be worse off.
She claimed teachers had been told the Scottish Government and local government body Cosla had been “going to be looking to see where they could perhaps take money from elsewhere in their budgets”, but she added: “All they have done here is take money from some teachers and give it to others.”
She told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “We had assurances last week from Scottish Government and Cosla colleagues that they were doing their utmost to find new money. They simply have not done that.
“To us it looks like they simply have not tried hard enough.”
The EIS has already announced further strike action on January 10 and 11, and Ms Bradley warned it was “now inevitable that further dates will be announced”.
She said: “We will certainly be looking at strikes throughout the months of January and February, and it really depends what happens at the negotiating table as to whether they can be averted and further action beyond that.”
Ms Somerville called on the union to “appreciate the context” of the Scottish Government’s position, with a fixed budget that is under “extreme pressure”.
She told BBC Radio Scotland: “I appreciate the EIS may want to see a 10 per cent rise, but I go back to the simple context that the budget is fully committed within the Scottish Government.
“While I appreciate they may have wished to see more done … this is a year where we are under extreme pressure on a fixed budget that is already committed and it is simply impossible to meet a demand of a 10 per cent pay increase.”
She described the latest offer made to teachers as “fair” and “progressive”, and voiced disappointment the EIS had rejected it. The education secretary urged union leaders to “come to the table and have a serious discussion about where we can compromise and find a resolution to this”.