Teachers pay dispute: Scottish Government makes new offer in bid to halt strike

Unions urged to postpone action to consider offer

The Scottish Government has submitted a new offer to teaching unions in a bid to avert strike action due to start this week.

Members of the EIS (Educational Institute of Scotland) are due to walk out on Thursday, with colleagues in the SSTA (Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association) set for action later. But Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville has urged union leaders to postpone action to consider the offer, while also saying any increases in pay would have to come from other services, due to the "challenging" financial situation in which the Scottish Government finds itself.

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Under the new proposals, teachers earning under £40,107 will receive an increase of £1,926 per year, 6.85 per cent for those on the lowest salaries, while those earning more will receive a 5 per cent increase and those earning more than £60,000 will receive a £3,000 boost.

Members of the EIS are due to stage one-day walk-out on Thursday.

Ms Somerville said: "This is a fair offer which recognises that the cost of living crisis is the priority, with higher increases for staff on lower salaries. This is now the fourth offer that has been made. In the same time, EIS have not changed their request for a 10 per cent pay increase – even for those on the highest incomes. I have been clear that we have limited room for manoeuvre. The financial situation for the Scottish Government is challenging and additional money for teacher pay means reduced public services elsewhere.

"In these challenging times it is important we focus our attention on those who are most impacted by the cost of living crisis, as well as ensuring fairness to all public sector workers. I would urge leadership to postpone plans for industrial action and consider this new offer."

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Cosla resources spokeswoman Katie Hagmann said the new offer was "fair, affordable and recognises that the cost of living crisis is the priority". She said: "We have worked extremely hard and closely with Scottish Government to ensure such a revised offer could be brought forward and made today. I would call on our trade union colleagues to recognise that these are extremely challenging financial times we are operating in and we all need to make decisions with a full understanding of the consequences.

"Our offer ensures that we don't place additional pressure on any other parts of our hardworking workforce and the essential services they deliver, and importantly it protects the best interests of children and young people. We hope our trade union partners will now postpone Thursday's strikes."

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The new offer comes after the Education Secretary told MSPs that any increase in pay was "unaffordable". Addressing a question in Holyrood from Scottish Tory education spokesman Stephen Kerr, Ms Somerville said: "The UK Government made clear in the autumn statement that there is no additional support for public sector pay. Not one penny. So I'm afraid the 10 per cent pay claim that is coming from the teacher unions is unaffordable to the Scottish Government. Any extra money for pay deals will have to be found elsewhere within an already contained Scottish Government budget."

The Tory MSP told the Education Secretary: "Teachers have been let down by an SNP Government too slow to come to the table and take decisive action to resolve the pay disputes." He branded the Education Secretary's earlier statement an "embarrassment to Scotland". Mr Kerr said: "To have a Cabinet Secretary, in an area which is fully devolved like education, blame the UK Government, it is beyond pathetic."