TEACHERS are likely to be offered only marginally more than a 3 per cent pay rise this year in line with other local government workers and well short of their 8 per cent claim.
Most councils have budgeted for 3 per cent but south of the border staff already have a 3.5 per cent increase in their pay packets following a review body recommendation to employers.
Teachers are unlikely to see any extra cash for some months while behind-the-table talks on restructuring the profession and modernising conditions of service continue between the Educational Institute of Scotland, the lead union, and local authority negotiators. Pay has been forced on to the backburner.
Ronnie Smith, the EIS's general secretary, last week revealed he was anxious to restart discussions on the millennium review and officials have been involved with representatives from the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities in trying to resolve the impasse.
No matter what happens in the talks, teachers will only be awarded around 3 per cent, backdated to April. Any substantial changes to conditions of service and pay structures would be implemented from next year.
Pat Watters, the new vice-president of Cosla and a management member of the Scottish Joint Negotiating Committee, said: "Any pay deal has to be one we can afford. We have not received any money from central government for the past five years for teachers' pay and deals must be self-funding."
He added: "The norm for local government is around 3 per cent and I would not see us being far away from that."
Mr Watters believes a millennium settlement is still possible, linking pay to changes in conditions. Councils were "duty bound" to honour any agreement, he said.
Norman Murray, Cosla's new president and leader of East Lothian Council, promised to hold talks with the unions within three weeks. "Clearly, there is a role for the Scottish Office in this and I will need to talk to Sam Galbraith and Peter Peacock (the education minister and his deputy)."
EIS leaders will conveniently reopen formal talks after the union's annual conference in Perth at the end of next week where they will come under pressure from left-wingers for industrial action, which is supported by the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association.
Union negotiators could still agree a deal over the summer based around the management's "final" offer and recommend it in a ballot at the end of August.
Mr Smith, in a statement last week following the article in The TES Scotland by Ross Martin, former Cosla education convener, called for "a real sense of urgency" when talks reconvene. "For teachers, the negotiating process has dragged on long enough. Everyone now seems to agree that teachers should be rewarded by a substantial increase in salaries and by conditions and a promotion structure which properly recognise the professional nature of the teacher's job," he said.
Mr Smith added: "Very significant issues still have to be resolved. These include the working year of teachers and professional control over the working week and composite class sizes in primary schools. They include the future structure of promoted posts and opportunities for teachers to move forward in the profession. Future negotiating structures need to be clarified.
"Not least, and despite misleading figures published by some newspapers, it remains unclear what teachers will be paid."