Only ‘significantly improved pay offer’ can end teacher strikes

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Scotland’s Education Secretary has been warned only a “significantly improved” pay offer would bring an end to staff walkouts after she said teachers would be offered a new deal within days.

For months, members of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) union have been embroiled in a struggle with Holyrood for a 10% rise, a move which Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville has previously dismissed as “unaffordable”.

Teachers, who had so far been offered a 5% rise, have pencilled in two national strike days on February 28 and March 1, as well as 20 days of rolling strikes and targeted action in senior politicians constituencies including the Glasgow Southside seat of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Teachers strike
Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills Shirley-Anne Somerville (Andrew Milligan/PA)

The offer, which will be the fifth made to teachers, came after a meeting between Scottish Government officials council umbrella body Colsa on Monday.

“We have been working very closely with Cosla, as the employers, and we hope that a new fair and affordable offer can be made to teachers within the next few days,” the Education Secretary said.

“If we can get this offer on the table, I hope trades union colleagues will take it back to their members so this dispute can be resolved without further disruption to children and young people’s education.

“I would repeat my call to the unions to suspend industrial action while discussions are continuing.”

But the EIS said it had no information on what the new offer would look like.

A union spokesman said: “We are clear that only a significantly improved offer can potentially end this dispute and halt further strike action in schools.”

The Scottish Conservatives accused Ms Somerville of being “asleep at the wheel throughout this entire pay dispute with teachers”.

Stephen Kerr, education spokesman, said: “It appears as though the SNP education secretary only belatedly appears to want to resolve this situation when further strikes are looming large.”

The MSP added: “The onus is on her to finally show the leadership required and ensure that this future disruptive action that is planned can be called off.

“So far the Education Secretary has been found wanting and her failures have flown in the face of the SNP insisting that education is their number one priority.”

Earlier on Monday, Deputy First Minister John Swinney said the Holyrood government was operating under “very difficult financial circumstances” and had already allocated an extra £570 million for council budgets in the 2023/24 budget.

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