Schools facing disruption as teachers take two days of strike action

Schools across Scotland will be hit by teachers’ strikes with members of two trade unions taking action on Wednesday and Thursday.

The strikes, being staged by the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association (SSTA) and the NASUWT union, come just two weeks after a similar protest by the EIS – Scotland’s largest teaching union.

That action, on November 24, closed almost all schools across Scotland – but the latest strikes seem unlikely to have the same impact. Instead, many schools will be partially closed, with secondaries open to senior school students.

The strike will have a varying impact on schools across the country with Glasgow City Council saying that “each school will have different plans as the numbers in the two unions taking action – the SSTA and NASUWT – will vary”.

The strikes come as part of a dispute over pay between the teaching unions and the Scottish Government and local government body Cosla.

This round of action will see strikes mainly against authorities in the west of Scotland on Wednesday, switching to the remaining council areas on Thursday.

Glasgow City Council said that “each school will have different plans as the numbers in the two unions taking action – the SSTA and NASUWT – will vary”.

In Edinburgh, where action will take place on Thursday, the council said that “only 10% of the workforce will be involved, we will keep as many schools open as possible”.

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Aberdeen Council will also be impacted by strike action on Thursday, with a list of closures available on the council website, while Fife Council has confirmed that all secondary schools will be closed to students on the same day.

The action comes after teachers rejected an offer from the employers last month, with the SSTA branding it a “pathetic and insulting” offer to teachers.

Seamus Searson, SSTA general secretary said: “Hopefully, the employers and the Scottish Government will understand that all teacher unions in Scotland are united in seeking a fair and reasonable pay settlement and there needs to be a willingness to solve the pay dispute.

“The latest offer was quickly rejected by the teachers’ unions and was deliberately divisive and inadequate.

“This apparent show of contempt to teachers by this offer has hardened the resolve of members and forced the SSTA to take the strongest form of action.”

He added: “The SSTA can only apologise to the pupils and their parents who are stuck in the middle of a dispute that should have been resolved in months ago. Teachers do not want to be taking strike action as they would rather be in school teaching.

“The SSTA, as always, is willing to meet at any time with the employers and Scottish Government to find a resolution to this dispute but there must be willingness to engage on the part of the other side.”

Unions have been calling for a 10% wage increase for teachers, although the Scottish Government insists this is unaffordable.

Dr Patrick Roach, the general secretary of the NASUWT, said: “This is first time members in Scotland have taken national strike action in over a decade.

“The fact it has come to this is a reflection of the depth of anger and frustration they feel at being continually told by ministers and Cosla that there is no more money to increase their pay, while their workloads spiral and the expectations on them mount.

“The cost-of-living crisis has brought this situation to a head and unless ministers and employers act to offer teachers a fair and decent pay award we cannot rule out further strike action in the months to come.”

Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville has said that the strike is in “no-one’s interest” and the Scottish Government remains committed to finding a fair settlement for Scottish teachers.

She said: “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.”