Scots Teachers Closer To Industrial Action After Rejecting Pay Deal

20 November 2018, 18:28 | Updated: 20 November 2018, 18:30


Teachers in two trade unions have voted almost unanimously to reject the pay deal put forward by Scottish ministers.

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said the "landmark" 98% vote against the pay deal by his union was "one of the strongest rejections of an offer in EIS history".

Meanwhile, the SSTA union announced 97% of its members who took part in a ballot voted to reject the offer, with only 3% prepared to accept it.

Education Secretary John Swinney said the offer to teachers was "the best pay deal in the UK for 2018-19", adding it was "disappointing" it was rejected.

Almost three-quarters of eligible members in both unions had taken part in the ballots, with turnouts of 74% and 73% for the EIS and the SSTA respectively.

A third union, the NASUWT, said it would now "consider a formal ballot for industrial action" in the pay row after a survey or more than 1,000 teachers found 54% are so angry about the current pay deal they are prepared to take action.

Mr Swinney has already said while teachers are being offered a 3% pay rise across the board, restructuring of the main pay grade scale and annual progression meant most teachers would receive a rise of between 5% and 11%.

"This was the best pay deal in the UK for 2018-19 so it is disappointing that teachers have rejected what I believe was a strong and fair offer," he said.

"All teachers on the main grade scale were offered at least a 5% annual increase, with some receiving up to 11% in conjunction with their annual progression."

The Education Secretary added there would be talks, saying ministers would "engage positively with the unions and with Cosla to seek to strike a pay deal".

The EIS, Scotland's largest teaching union, has been campaigning for a 10% rise for all teachers, with tens of thousands of protesters taking to the streets of Glasgow last month in support of this.

Gail Macgregor, resources spokeswoman for the local government body Cosla, said: "The trade unions claim for 10% increase in one year cannot be met within the resources we currently have available."

Mr Flanagan said: "Today's near-unanimous rejection of the pay offer is a landmark result, one of the strongest rejections of an offer in EIS history and one which is indicative of the current mood of Scotland's teachers, increasingly agitated on pay but angry also at excessive workload, mainstreaming on the cheap and austerity driven cuts to resources."

EIS president Alison Thornton added while the union still hoped to reach a negotiated agreement it is "fully prepared to ballot for industrial action should this be necessary to secure a fair deal".

She added: "We urge the Scottish Government and Cosla to return to the negotiating table with a greatly improved offer, before it is too late."

SSTA general secretary Seamus Searson said there was a "resounding rejection of the pay offer" from his union's members.

He said: "The Government and employers have underestimated teachers and tried to create division within different grades of teachers.

"With 97% of respondents rejecting the pay offer, it is a strong message to the Government as to the feelings of teachers.

"It is time for Government to return to the negotiating table and treat teachers with respect and seek a meaningful settlement. The SSTA looks forward to productive talks at the negotiating table in the coming days."

Meanwhile, 56% of the teachers surveyed by the NASUWT indicated they would be willing to take more than one day of strike action as part of the row over pay.

Chris Keates, NASUWT general secretary, said: "Our members are clearly angry and rightly so. Their response clearly shows the divisive nature of this pay offer.

"It will do nothing to combat the growing crisis in teacher supply.

"The NASUWT will be conveying the outcome of the survey to employers and to Government and the union will consider a formal ballot for industrial action on pay, depending on their response."

Ms Macgregor urged teachers to "recognise the real value" of the deal being offered and "act accordingly".

She said: "I want to make it crystal clear to the entire teaching workforce that local government hugely values and respects them and the incredible work they do every day in schools throughout Scotland to educate and support our children and young people.

"Years of austerity in public finances cannot be remedied in one fell swoop.

"The trade unions claim for 10% increase in one year cannot be met within the resources we currently have available and we have said that consistently throughout the pay negotiations.

"With support from our partners in the Scottish Government we have packaged an offer for teachers which includes a 3% pay award and further measures to address recruitment and retention issues."

Ms Macgregor said industrial action by teachers would "disrupt schools and the education of children and young people."

She added: "This is both unnecessary and unwarranted and will not result in an unaffordable 10% pay increase."