Secondary teachers in Scotland have announced plans for further strike action early next year – with union leaders insisting the move sends a “clear message that the teacher unions are not for turning” in their dispute over pay.
Members of the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association will walk out on Wednesday January 11 – the same day that Scotland’s largest teaching union, the EIS, is also due to strike in secondary schools.
The co-ordinated action comes after a strike by the EIS last month, and after teachers in the SSTA staged two days of protest this week.
As the date for the latest action was announced, leaders of the STTA challenged Holyrood ministers to act on teacher pay – with the union also warning further strike days were being considered by its executive committee and could be “announced in the coming days”.
SSTA president Catherine Nicol said: “If the Scottish Government values its teachers, it must be prepared to act and negotiate sensibly.
“We must have a pay offer that we can take to our members. If not, the SSTA is prepared to take strike action to obtain a fair deal and further our cause.”
Teachers have already rejected a deal which would see most staff in classrooms receive a 5% pay rise, although the lowest earning teachers would get a 6.85% increase.
Union demands for a 10% increase have been dismissed as “unaffordable” by Scottish Education Secretary Shirley Anne-Somerville.
Ms Nicol thanked SSTA members who took part in this week’s protest, saying they had been “willing to come out in freezing conditions” which had “showed the strength of feeling there is against acceptance of the current pay offer”.
She said: “Scottish secondary school teachers answered the call and stood together to fight for a fair and reasonable pay deal.
Ms Nicol added the action had “sent a clear message” to both the Government and local council leaders at Cosla to “pay teachers properly”.
SSTA general secretary Seamus Searson added: “The strikes this week have been an outstanding success with most secondary schools either been closed or severely disrupted by the action of SSTA members.
“I take my hat off to SSTA members, they have shown their resolve and determination to get a deal done. This can be seen by the videos and pictures of SSTA members taking strike action.
“The SSTA strike will join with other teacher unions on Wednesday January 11 in a united front to send a clear message that the teacher unions are not for turning.”
He noted that three years ago Deputy First Minister John Swinney, who was at the time also education secretary, had promised teacher pay “must be settled on time”.
Mr Searson continued: “This pay increase should have been in teacher wage packets in April this year, but we still await payment.
“The SSTA calls on the Deputy First Minister to be true to his word and settle this pay dispute now.”
Ms Somerville, however, said: “Strike action is in no-one’s interest, least of all learners, parents and carers.”
She said the Scottish Government remained “committed to a fair, sustainable settlement for Scotland’s teachers and will continue to engage teaching unions and Cosla constructively”.
The Education Secretary continued: “It is very disappointing that the teaching unions have rejected the latest offer – the fourth which has been put to unions – which mirrors the deal accepted by other local government workers.
“The request for a 10% increase for all teachers – even the highest paid – is not affordable within the Scottish Government’s fixed budget.
“While councils are responsible for managing the impact of industrial action, I expect schools to remain open wherever possible, so that disruption can be minimised. Any closures would follow risk assessments made in individual areas.”