Scotland’s largest union is warning the first teacher-led strikes since the 1980s could take place this year unless pay is “substantially improved”.
The EIS teaching union and other unions will shortly enter new negotiations with local authorities and the Scottish government on next year’s pay settlement via the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers (SNCT).
The EIS says it remains committed to “good-faith negotiations”, but ahead of the talks it has issued a warning that another below-inflation pay rise is “unacceptable” this year and that pay must be restored to pre-austerity levels or teachers will take industrial action.
EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said Scottish teachers had suffered a decade-long decline in their pay and if recruitment issues were to be addressed pay had to improve.
Scottish schools have been plagued by staff shortages in recent years; last month it was revealed that Moray Council was considering part-time schooling for some primary pupils due to a lack of short and medium-term supply cover for things like sickness absence and maternity leave.
Mr Flanagan said: “The clear message that teachers wish their employers and the Scottish government to hear is that ‘enough is enough’ and that the era of real-terms pay cuts must end. For far too long, teachers have been paying the price of austerity-driven cuts prompted by a financial situation that was not of their making.
"This has led to a decade-long decline in teachers’ pay with serious implications for teacher recruitment, retention and for education provision across the country.”
Staggered pay rise
The EIS successfully campaigned for an increase in Scottish college lecturers’ pay last year. Now college lecturers are paid £40,000 at the top of the new pay scale and teachers £36,480.
Just before Christmas, Scottish teachers secured a staggered 2 per cent pay rise, with 1 per cent backdated to April and a further 1 per cent rise this month, after talks over pay wrangled on for over six months.
In England a survey of more than 12,000 teachers published last month found that, five years after the government introduced performance related pay (PRP), 14 per cent of teachers eligible for pay progression on their pay scale were denied it and a further 25 per cent have not yet been told whether they will get a rise.
Teachers worse off
Scottish Labour education spokesman Iain Gray said that 10 years of the SNP government had resulted in Scottish teachers being £6,000 worse off.
Mr Gray said: “What our schools really need are enough teachers with enough time, support and resources to do their job; with a career structure to properly recognise their efforts.
“That means a significant improvement in pay, career structure and workload, properly funded by government to re-establish the Scottish profession as world leading.”
Responding to the threat of industrial action a spokesman for council umbrella body, Cosla, said: "We look forward to the discussions in relation to teachers pay starting in early January. As employers we endeavour to ensure that the pay deals we reach within all our bargaining groups are fair and also sustainable."
A Scottish government spokesperson said: “The Scottish government is working with employers and unions, through the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers, to improve pay and conditions.
"We have already taken action to reduce workload and have agreed a backdated 1 per cent pay rise from April and a further 1 per cent uplift from January until the end of March 2018 - backed by an additional £24 million in the draft budget. And the education reforms being implemented by this government will create new opportunities for teachers to develop their careers.”
"We will also, alongside employers and unions, take part in a strategic review of pay and reward.”