The national council of Scotland's largest teaching union has today approved the opening of a statutory strike ballot over pay.
The move paves the way for Scotland's first national teacher-led strikes since the 1980s.
Formal notice of the planned ballot by the EIS union will be issued to local authority employers next week, with ballot papers issued later in January.
Earlier this week, teaching unions rejected the latest revised offer, dated 7 January, from local authorities body Cosla and the Scottish government. Yesterday, the EIS executive committee unanimously recommended a move to a statutory strike ballot.
At a specially convened meeting today, the EIS council gave final approval for the opening of that ballot.
Teachers' 'patience exhausted over pay negotiations'
EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said: "We have been negotiating for a year, on a pay claim that was due to be settled last April. Teachers’ patience is now exhausted.
"Our preference has always been to agree a fair deal through negotiation, but we have been very clear, also, that we are prepared to take strike action should this be necessary to achieve an acceptable settlement.”
He added: “Ballot papers will be issued later this month. Clearly, once the actual ballot is underway negotiations are suspended but prior to that we remain prepared to consider any improved pay offer. No offer has been forthcoming from our local authority employers, however.
“Teachers have demonstrated time and time again their support for our Value Education Value Teachers campaign, which is about more than just pay. I’m confident that will continue to be the case.”
Unions say teachers' pay has fallen 20 per cent in real terms in the past decade, and that a significant increase is needed to show teachers they are valued and to help boost staff recruitment and retention. In October, an estimated 30,000 people marched in Glasgow in support of unions' demands for a universal pay increase of 10 per cent.
Deputy first minister and education secretary John Swinney said: “In light of concerns raised about the position of the significant number of teachers already at the top of the main-grade pay scale, the Scottish government is prepared to improve its offer around main grade restructuring and revaluation of all other [Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers] pay scales. The Scottish government will provide the extra funding, which is in addition to the local government settlement.
“Under this scenario, teachers would receive a minimum 9 per cent increase between January 2018 and April 2019 and a further 3 per cent rise in April 2020. This is a clear indication of our commitment to recruit and retain teachers and I urge the teaching unions to consider this favourably so that parties can bring discussions to a conclusion."
He added: “I made this proposal to the EIS on Thursday. It is an enhanced offer and I will ask Cosla to agree this and to formally offer it to unions after 25 January. I believe this must be put to teachers for their consideration.
“I welcome the agreement by EIS to allow further time to reach an agreement. Industrial action is in no one’s interests, not least our children and young people. That has been my focus and will continue to be until this resolved.
“I welcome the move by EIS to allow further time to reach an agreement. Industrial action is in no one’s interests not least our children and young people. That has been my focus and will continue to be until this is resolved.”