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by Kirsteen Paterson
06 January 2023
Teaching strikes: Scottish education secretary urges unions to reconsider

Shirley-Anne Somerville

Teaching strikes: Scottish education secretary urges unions to reconsider

Education secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville has urged teaching unions to reconsider upcoming strike action following "constructive and helpful" talks.

Members of three unions – EIS, NASUWT and SSTA – will take industrial action next? week in a dispute over pay.

Primary school staff will walk out on Tuesday, with secondary school teachers striking on Wednesday in action that will affect schools across the country.

Discussions took place between councils body Cosla and unions today and the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers (SNCT) is due to meet again on Monday in an effort to resolve the dispute.

Unions seeking an uplift of 10 per cent have rejected a package that would offer half of that, giving the lowest paid staff an increase of 6.85 per cent.

The EIS called the offer "insulting" and the SSTA called on ministers to "act and negotiate sensibly", while the NASUWT said a "substantially improved pay offer" must be produced to end the impasse.

This morning higher and further education minister Jamie Hepburn told the BBC's Good Morning Scotland that the offer is "fair" and "affordable" and "would ensure that teachers in Scotland remain by some measure the best paid teaching staff in the UK".

This afternoon, Somerville has said she hopes unions will "reconsider" their plans as talks continue.

Describing the day's discussions as "constructive and helpful", she said: "I took the opportunity to make clear how much I value our teaching workforce and recognise the vital importance of reaching a fair and affordable settlement on pay.

"We are open to considering options to resolve this dispute through the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers and potential scope for compromise.

"I recognise that any deal must be fair and affordable for all concerned, given the unprecedented pressures facing Scotland's budget."

Somerville went on: "Strikes in our schools are in noone's interest, including for pupils, parents and carers who have already had to deal with significant disruption over the past three years."

Commenting, Des Morris, EIS salaries convener and chair of the teachers' side of the SNCT, said: "Trade unions remain committed to reaching a fair, negotiated pay settlement for Scotland’s teaching professionals.

"In the absence of any new offer, the planned strike action for Tuesday and Wednesday of next week will proceed as scheduled. A planned SNCT meeting has now been brought forward to Monday of next week – at the union side’s request – in the hope of advancing discussions towards a new and improved offer to teachers."

Meanwhile, Cosla resources spokesperson Councillor Katie Hagmann said: "Cosla leaders are clear that, given the financial pressures being faced, it remains the case that there is no additional funding available.  

"I do however, look forward to maintaining constructive and proactive dialogue, which considers all options available, with all parties so that we limit any further disruption for pupils, parents and carers, which we all agree is in no one’s best interests."

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