The EIS teaching union is likely to move to an immediate statutory ballot for industrial action, after it emerged yesterday that members had decided to reject the current pay offer.
Some 57 per cent voted against the offer, with 43 per cent voting to accept, based on an 81 per cent turnout; that could result in industrial action affecting primary and secondary schools as early as April.
The EIS executive committee meets today to decide on the next steps to take in the campaign. It remains possible that Scotland could see the first national teacher-led strikes since the 1980s. However, negotiations with councils and the Scottish government would continue even while a strike ballot is ongoing.
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Members of the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association voted to accept the deal, a result which also emerged yesterday – 64 per cent were in favour, on a 76 per cent turnout – and last week members of AHDS, the primary school leaders’ body, overwhelmingly voted in favour. However, since teaching unions negotiate collectively, the SSTA will continue to negotiate for an increase regardless of the result of its ballot.
With the EIS being by far the largest teaching union in Scotland, if it decides to take industrial action there is sure to be a big impact on schools.
Councils insist that they cannot provide any more money from their budgets, so the onus is on the Scottish government to find a way to avoid school strikes.
The current offer was not far away from being accepted – the EIS council narrowly voted in January to recommend to members that they reject it – so strike action is still far from a certainty.
Meanwhile, unions have threatened the first ever strike action at Scotland's national exam body.
Unite will hold a statutory ballot on industrial action at the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), which could result in disruption to this year’s exams, which start at the end of April.
However, the SQA has said it is in discussions with unions and insisted that this year's exams were “on track”.