Thousands of teachers from across the country staged a rally in Glasgow at the weekend, but Mr Mackay insists that he can’t agree to a deal which could jeopardise spending on other public services.
Employers, including local councils, have tabled a “final” offer of 3 per cent for all but the most highly-paid teachers, with some grades receiving bigger rises.
“We’ve set out a proposal to teachers as part of the tripartite negotiations,” Mr Mackay told BBC Politics Scotland yesterday. “I think it fits with the deals that we’ve come to so far, stepping away from the pay cut – the 1 per cent pay cut – and I think it’s fair and affordable to ensure we can keep investing in our public services.
“I recognise the pay restraint that people have endured but we have to give a pay settlement that’s also affordable so we can protect our public services and properly remunerate all our public servants.”
Members of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) say the sizeable hike is justified after years of pay restraint. The EIS said the value of teachers’ pay had fallen by more than a fifth over the past decade.
Mr Mackay insisted that the Scottish Government has already arrived at deals with “other public sector workers that I think is fair and affordable”.
He added: “We’ve stepped away from austerity of the UK government to try and give a fair pay deal to public sector workers, recognise that there has been pay restraint over a number of years.
“But the direction of travel now is try and repair that and ensure that we remunerate all of our public sector staff and I think there’s a fair deal to teachers as part of that as well.
“Set it in the context of the NHS and police and other public sector workers that have had a similar kind of deal. So we think we’ve put a fair deal to teachers.”
Education Secretary John Swinney has described the offer as generous and fair.
But the EIS has hit out at the approach of the employers and recommended that its members reject the 3 per cent proposal in a ballot which is due to open this week.
EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said at the weekend: “Those who want to split the unions – think again, public sector trade union solidarity is a given. Our pay claim is for 10 per cent – given that the value of take-home pay has dropped by 24 per cent in the last decade, that claim is already a compromise on what we deserve.”
Teachers’ pay is negotiated by a committee which includes the unions, councils and the Scottish Government.