School strike: Teachers Scotland begin two-day strike action

By Democrat reporter

BBC Scotland reporter Jamie McIvor is reporting that teachers across Scotland are beginning another two days of strike action as their pay dispute continues.

Almost every state primary and secondary school in the country will be closed by the 48-hour strike.

By the end of this week, many pupils will have lost at least five days of schooling to the industrial action, which began in November.

Teachers’ unions want a 10% pay increase but the Scottish government says their demands are unaffordable.

Pupils in the constituencies of senior politicians have been worst affected. Targeted strike action by members of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) last week closed schools for three additional days.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her deputy John Swinney.

The same areas, which include those represented by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her deputy John Swinney, face another three days of strikes next week.

And a further 20 days of regional rolling strikes – affecting schools across the country – are planned from 13 March. The dispute has been running now for more than a year.

Jackie Baillie, the MSP for Dumbarton, pictured left, has commented on the ongoing teachers’ strikes saying that the Scottish Government needs to sort out the dispute once and for all.

The EIS’ Salaries Committee recently rejected an offer from the Scottish Government of a 6 percent pay rise in the current year and a further 5.5 percent increase in the new financial year.

The EIS is campaigning for a 10 percent pay increase but ministers say any offer which is made has to be affordable for the government.

Schools in West Dunbartonshire and Argyll and Bute closed on Tuesday, February 28th and Wednesday, March 1st as part of a national strike.  There are now rolling strikes scheduled to take place prior to and after the Easter holidays.

All schools in West Dunbartonshire will close on March 14th while primary schools in the region will be shut on March 13th and secondary schools on March 15th.  In Argyll and Bute, all schools will shut on March 20th while primary schools will be closed on March 17th and secondary schools on March 21st.

Jackie Baillie said: “No-one wants these strikes to happen yet the SNP government’s failure to reach a deal with teaching unions is forcing more school closures.

“This is a huge disappointment to both families and education staff who would far rather be in the classroom than on a picket line.

“We cannot afford more disruption in our schools as the exam season is fast approaching. Young people have already suffered from restrictions to learning through the pandemic, which has been worst felt in areas of deprivation.

“The failures of process that trade unions are highlighting smacks of gross incompetence from the SNP, and, crucially, undermines the trust needed in negotiations to get a deal done.

“We waited three months for this latest offer to be made. Ministers need to get back around the table with councils and unions to strike a deal and sort out this dispute once and for all.”

Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said she was “desperately disappointed” that the EIS had not suspended its strike action as talks continued.

“It’s the children and young people’s education that’s suffering,” she told BBC Radio’s Good Morning Scotland programme.

Five offers have now been put to teachers, she said. The last offer would have seen an 11.5% increase coming to teachers in April, a 30% cumulative rise since 2018.

‘We will meet every day’

“We are trying our very best to find a compromise and resolution to this,” she added. “The fifth offer was fair and has to be affordable for the government. But the EIS rejected it without even taking it to members.”

Ms Somerville said she was committed to working with the unions.

Every school in West Dunbartonshire is closed in the 48-hour strike

“The deputy first minister and I will meet the EIS today and we have offered to meet every single day this week to build up the momentum to get a resolution.

“I am very conscious that children and young people’s education remains disrupted and particularly in the run-up to the exam season, we don’t want to see that.”

Andrea Bradley, the general secretary of the EIS, said members remained “absolutely resolute in their determination to secure a fair pay settlement” from the Scottish government and local authority employer Cosla.

What were teachers offered?

Teachers were offered a pay deal worth 11.5% in total over two years.

This included a 6% rise for 2022-23, backdated to last April, and a 5.5% increase for 2023-24.

The offer also raised the cap on the maximum rise from £60,000 to £80,000 per year, which only affects a small number of the best paid in the profession, including some headteachers.

A majority of members of the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association (SSTA) and Association of Head Teachers and Deputes Scotland (ADHS) unions were prepared to accept the offer.

But it was turned down by the EIS and the NASUWT union, whose members will also be on strike on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The 11.5% offer across two years has now lapsed and unions are hoping to receive an improved deal.

But the Scottish government has repeatedly said demands for a 10% increase are “unaffordable”.

Other than a few small schools on islands, virtually every state school in Scotland will be closed.

Analysis box by Jamie McIvor, news correspondent, BBC Scotland

When teachers staged their first national strike since the 1980s in late November, few expected they would still be striking now.

Teachers had hoped the mere threat of a strike would lead to a big improvement in the pay offer. But that hasn’t happened.

Today will be the fourth day off for most pupils but some have faced more disruption.

The dispute appears no closer to resolution.

SSTA members are not taking part in this strike – in a consultation, they voted by a narrow majority to accept the most recent pay offer. The AHDS is also not on strike.

But that 11.5% pay offer is no longer on the table. In teachers’ pay negotiations, the unions work jointly. The EIS – which is by far the biggest union – and the NASUWT rejected it.

Much depends now on when a new pay offer might be tabled and what it might be like. When one comes, will it be enough to get the EIS and the NASUWT to suspend action?

Otherwise all students face four days off school by the middle of April and some face seven.

Ms Bradley, of the EIS, said the latest two-day national strike was a “further clear signal that Scotland’s teachers are not prepared to accept the deep real-terms pay cut that is being offered to them”.

She said support for the ongoing action “remains very strong”, with more teachers out on picket lines and “a significant number” of new applications for union membership in the run-up to the latest action.

The dispute would only be settled by “appropriate negotiations”, Ms Bradley added.

‘Anger and frustration’

Dr Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT, said his members’ decision to reject the revised pay offer and continue industrial action reflected “the level of anger and frustration towards ministers and employers at their refusal to offer teachers a real-terms pay rise”.

“Teachers feel taken for granted by the Scottish government and [council body] Cosla who seem to expect them to be satisfied with yet another year of pay erosion as their workloads become steadily more demanding,” he added.

The schools targeted in specific areas last week face a further three days of action from 7 March if the dispute is not settled.

Strike action has targeted the constituency of Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville

Those were in the constituencies of Nicola Sturgeon (Glasgow South-side), John Swinney (Perthshire North), Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville (Dunfermline) and the East Dunbartonshire Council area of Scottish Greens education spokesperson Ross Greer.

The action will also target the ward of Dumfries and Galloway councillor Katie Hagmann, the resources spokesperson for council umbrella body Cosla.

A further 20 days of regional rolling strikes across Scotland are scheduled between 13 March and 21 April, with each school being hit twice.

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